PORTLAND, Ore. - The #8 Lewis & Clark women's basketball team will have to wait and see if they are in the NCAA Division III Women's Basketball National Championship Tournament, after dropping a heart-breaker to the Whitworth Pirates on Saturday night. The Pirates earned the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship, which comes with the conference's NCAA Automatic Qualifier, after taking down the Pioneers 76-61.
The Pioneers fall to 24-3 on the season, while the Pirates improve to 21-6.
Emily Travers led all players with 20 points, while Kayla Johnson finished with 15 for the Pirates.
Things started off well for the Pioneers who captured the lead just 20 seconds into the first period with an unconventional three-point play by Villanueva. Whitworth came back, capturing the lead for good with 14:24 to go on a Katara Belton-Sharp layup.
A Pioneer foul with 6:22 to go earned the Pirates their largest lead of the half at eight points, 29-21, on a Kendra Lahue free-throw. Casey Zinn pulled the Pioneers within a point with a little under five minutes remaining with a long distance three-pointer.
Whitworth was undeterred, pulling back ahead heading into halftime with a 6-1 run.
The Pioneers would never be able to recapture the lead. After Whitworth picked up its first double-digit lead, the Pioneers managed to pull back within five points with 8:24 to go. Belton-Sharp pushed the Pirates ahead by 15 points after back-to-back baskets, before earning them their largest lead of the game at 17 points with a little over a minute left.
The Pioneers will find out their fate in the NCAA Tournament on Monday, Feb. 25 at 11:30 a.m. when the NCAA airs the selection show on NCAA.com. The Pioneers who are ranked second in the West Region and eighth in the nation have a solid chance at earning an at-large bid to the national championship