Whitman college knocks off No. 1 Thomas More, advances to Final Four

The Whitman women’s basketball team celebrates their victory over Thomas More and first Final Four appearance with a dance at midcourt. (Clockwise from left): Sarah Anderegg, Gabriella McGann, Tiffani Traver, Chelsi Brewer, Meghan White and Hallie Buse (foreground).

The Whitman women’s basketball team celebrates their victory over Thomas More and first Final Four appearance with a dance at midcourt. (Clockwise from left): Sarah Anderegg, Gabriella McGann, Tiffani Traver, Chelsi Brewer, Meghan White and Hallie Buse (foreground). Photo by Greg Lehman.

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WALLA WALLA — Next stop: Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

That Midwestern community will provide the next venue for No. 7 nationally-ranked Whitman, which kept its 2013-14 season alive with its fourth win in the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament. The Missionaries edged top-ranked and previously undefeated Thomas More (31-1), 76-60, in the Elite Eight Saturday night on George Ball Court at Sherwood Center.

The Missionaries will take their 30-1 record into next weekend’s Final Four at Quandt Fieldhouse on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“We were driven to get back,” Whitman guard Tiffani Traver said of her team’s desire to return to the Elite Eight. “We wanted to get to this point and get past it.”

“We’re thrilled. I’m proud of them,” Whitman coach Michelle Ferenz said. “This was a cool event for the school and the community.”

The Missionaries and Saints reached Saturday’s contest with Sweet 16 triumphs on Friday. Whitman topped No. 20 Christopher Newport, 87-70, behind 30 points from Northwest Conference Player of the Year Heather Johns, while Thomas More toppled 17th-ranked Texas-Tyler, 73-61.

Whitman 76, Thomas More 60

The opening half was spiced with seven ties and eight lead changes. Whitman went to halftime with a 25-23 edge.

Thomas More hung tough despite losing leading scorer Sydney Moss to an injury with 7:23 left in the period. She did not play in the second half.

The Missionaries opened half two with an 18-4 run in the first 6:38 of play. Hailey Mcdonald keyed the blitz with six points while Johns, Meghan White and Sarah Anderegg contributed four points apiece.

Defense was also key to Whitman’s success. The Missionaries did not allow a field goal from the 4:05 mark of the first half to the 13:55 mark of the second period.

“We rushed them. We contested them,” Ferenz said. “The kids did a great job moving their feet.”

“It’s the first thing we work on in practice,” White added.

The gutty Saints closed to within eight, 49-41, with 9:34 to go, but drew no closer from there.

“Credit to Thomas More,” Ferenz said. “They kept coming back without their leading scorer.”

Whitman took its biggest lead — 76-58 — on an Anderegg free throw with just over a minute remaining.

By that time, Sherwood Center was reverberating with chants of “Final Four! Final Four!”

Anderegg led a quartet of Missionaries in double figures with 20 points. White added 15, Johns had 13 and Mcdonald chipped in 10.

Anderegg and White grabbed 11 rebounds apiece as Whitman enjoyed a 53-44 advantage on the glass.

Saturday’s game was the last on George Ball Court for Whitman seniors Anderegg, White, Traver and Marah Alindogan.

“These four young women are as different as you can get,” Ferenz said. “They are four very good friends. They made a commitment to the program and brought the program to the next level.”

Whitman 87, Christopher

Newport 70

First-half scoring surges of 14-2, 11-2, and 12-2 helped the Missionaries sail away from the Captains.

Johns shot 13-of-20 from the field and scored 21 points in the first half as Whitman forged a lead as large as 26 before settling for a 20-point advantage, 47-27, at intermission.

Anderegg added 15 points for the winners and Traver scored 12.

The Missionaries outrebounded Christopher Newport, 53-34.

The first five minutes of the game had four ties and three lead changes before the Missionaries blew the game open.

“It took a few minutes to get warmed up and figure out what the defense was giving (us),” Johns said. “That finally clicked and we didn’t look back.”

“It took us a while to figure out what they were all about,” Anderegg said. “Rebounding was a big part of the game.”

“This is the time of the year when it’s one-and-done,” Traver said. “It’s about getting it done in the moment.”

“They’re athletic, strong and impressive,” Ferenz said of Christopher Newport. “I was pleased with how our kids came out and attacked their pressure.

“We had great contributions from kids off the bench,” Ferenz said of the group that combined for 11 points and 18 rebounds. “They keep giving us quality minutes.”

Captains’ coach Bill Broderick offered accolades for both Johns and the opponent afterward.

“She’s tough, confident and quick,” Broderick said of Whitman’s junior guard. “She has an all-around game. She set the tone for them. She was the best player on the floor.

“Whitman is good,” said Broderick, whose team ended the year 24-6. “They earned the right to have the sectional. We lost to a better team.”

NCAA administrator impressed with Whitman

One could suggest that Whitman College made a favorable impression with coaches, athletes, and fans after hosting both the first two rounds and a sectional portion of the NCAA Division III women’s basketball tournament on George Ball Court at Sherwood Center the past two weekends.

Lauren Esbensen, the NCAA site representative for both events and the Associate Athletic Director and Sr. Woman Administrator at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., was among those accentuating the positive.

“This is a class act here at Whitman,” Esbensen said after Friday’s sectional games. “They do everything at a top-notch level. Everybody on the staff works hard. They really go above and beyond to make sure that it’s more than just an event or a basketball game.”

A championship event requires much behind-the-scenes activity to make it “special” and “something that is memorable,” Esbensen said.

“There is a lot of process that goes into a site (selection),” Esbensen said. “Whitman has done it successfully. They have shown they can host.”

Is there a chance Whitman could be cast in a similar role in the future?

“In my opinion,” Esbensen said, “Whitman could be considered.”

WHITMAN 76, THOMAS MORE 60

THOMAS MORE (60) — Kitchen 2-7 2-7 7, Beasley 2-15 2-3 7, Wainscott 4-14 4-5 13, Burgoyne 2-8 6-8 10, Moss 3-7 0-0 6, Bartels 2-2 0-0 4, Pluto 0-0 0-0 0, Krusling 0-2 1-2 1, Huber 2-7 0-0 6, Hignite 0-0 0-0 0, McDonald 1-1 0-0 2, Santamaria 2-4 0-0 4, Devine 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-67 15-25 60.

WHITMAN (76) — Johns 5-15 3-3 13, Traver 1-7 6-6 9, Mcdonald 3-5 3-5 10, White 6-7 3-4 15, Anderegg 6-14 8-11 20, Alindogan 1-1 1-2 3, Buse 0-0 0-0 0, Gray 0-0 0-0 0, Ketner 0-2 0-1 0, McGann 0-0 0-0 0, Maeda 3-6 0-0 6, Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 24-32 76.

Halftime — Whitman 25-23. 3-point goals — Thomas More 5-19 (Huber 2-4, Wainscott 1-2, Kitchen 1-3, Beasley 1-6, Krusling 0-1, Santamaria 0-1, Moss 0-2), Whitman 2-9 (Mcdonald 1-1, Traver 1-5, Johns 0-1, Anderegg 0-1, Ketner 0-1). Total fouls—Thomas More 25, Whitman 19. Fouled out— Thomas More (Krusling), Whitman (Johns, Mcdonald). Technical fouls—Thomas More (bench). Rebounds— Thomas More 44 (Burgoyne 10), Whitman 53 (White 11, Anderegg 11). Turnovers—Thomas More 15, Whitman 16. Assists— Thomas More 7 (Beasley 3), Whitman 9 (Traver 3).

WHITMAN 87, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT 70

CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT (70) — Hobbs 1-7 0-2 2, Miller 0-3 0-0 0, Perry 5-14 3-6 13, Mitchell 5-13 1-3 11, Green 8-11 5-6 21, Stone 0-1 0-0 0, Holland 7-14 3-5 17, Shill 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 1-2 2-5 4, Cox 0-1 0-0 0, Delgado 0-0 0-0 0, Trent 0-0 0-0 0, Moses 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 28-67 14-27 70.

WHITMAN (87) — Johns 13-20 2-3 30, Traver 4-9 2-2 12, Mcdonald 4-7 0-0 9, White 4-5 0-0 8, Anderegg 6-10 3-4 15, Alindogan 0-0 0-0 0, Buse 0-2 0-0 0, Gray 2-4 0-0 4, Ketner 0-2 2-2 2, McGann 1-1 0-0 2, Maeda 2-8 1-2 5, Brewer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 36-68 10-13 87.

Haltime — Whitman 47-27. 3-point goals — Christopher Newport none, Whitman 5-11 (Johns 2-4, Traver 2-5, Mcdonald 1-1, Anderegg 0-1). Total fouls—Christopher Newport 16, Whitman 21. Fouled out— none. Technical fouls—none. Rebounds— Christopher Newport 34 (Mitchell 6), Whitman 53 (White 12). Turnovers—Christopher Newport 11, Whitman 21. Assists— Christopher Newport 6 (Thomas 2), Whitman 20 (Mcdonald 4, Anderegg 4, Maeda 4).

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