PORTLAND, Ore. -- The wait was worth it for the Lewis & Clark Pioneers three seniors, as on Senior Night, the Pios beat the Pacific Boxers, 72-59, to win their 15th game of the year and move one step closer to the Northwest Conference postseason.
Sarah Anderson, Ayisat Afolabi and Deja Nicholas took to the Pamplin Sports Center floor for one final time on Saturday night, all played over 25 minutes and scored a combined 35 points for the Pioneers' eighth home victory this season.
The win improves Lewis & Clark to 8-6 in the NWC, two games ahead of Whitworth for the fourth-and-final postseason tournament spot with two games to play. While the conference will announce official placements to the tournament, the Pioneers are in good position, having beaten Whitworth once this season. Additionally, Lewis & Clark is the only team of the two to have defeated either of the conference's top two teams, Puget Sound and Whitman, in the regular season.
"It's been a great year. We've been having fun," said Nicholas, who transferred to Lewis & Clark before the start of last season. The team's primary point guard this season, Nicholas finished with a game-high four assists to go with six rebounds on Friday night. Her first assist of the second half was a kick out to Anderson, who hit a 3-pointer and broke a 32-32 tie to put the Pioneers up for the rest of the game.
Anderson entered the game as the second-best 3-point shooter of any NCAA Division III women's basketball player and credits her senior teammates for a lot of that success.
"[Ayisat] takes two every time she gets the ball, and [Deja's] the best driver and kicker I've ever played with," said Anderson, who finished 2 for 5 from 3-point range and was shooting 47 percent for the season entering the weekend.
The night was truly special for Anderson, who was injured at the start of last season and wasn't expecting to play college basketball again.
"I posted an Instagram and that was the first time I thought about it," said Anderson. "Just to get out here one more season and finish it out with these two, it's so much fun playing with them."
"She's a fighter," said Afolabi of Anderson, a four-year teammate of hers. "She's gone through so many injuries and the way she bounced back, it's so inspiring."
Afolabi finished with 22 points to lead the Pios in scoring for the 17th time in 23 games this season. With 14 rebounds, she earned her 15th double-double of the year. With 257 total rebounds, an NWC-leading average of 11.2 per game, Afolabi has 85 more rebounds than any other player in the NWC.
Lewis & Clark's 15 wins is four more than its entire win total from the last two seasons, teams that both Anderson and Afolabi were on.
"It's been rocky, but I really like our coach this year," said Afolabi of first-year head coach Pamela Findlay. "She has a lot of confidence and she's made me have confidence in myself, so I think that is why I'm having such a great year."
Pacific (9-14; 3-11 NWC) was led by 26 points from Sarah Curl.
Lewis & Clark (15-8; 8-6 NWC) will play at Whitman and Whitworth next weekend to wrap up the regular season. Last month, the Pios beat then-No. 18 Whitman, 79-70, a game in which Afolabi and Nicholas combined for 46 points. At worst, the Pios need to win one of their two games to guarantee themselves the fourth spot and a trip to Puget Sound in the NWC semifinals on Feb. 23.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Saturday
Whitman 73, Pacific Lutheran 43
George Fox 87, Willamette 84
Puget Sound 78, Whitworth 58