McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Jessica Thoens scored a career-high 25 points to lead visiting Whitworth to an 86-76 win at Linfield on Friday night, giving Pirate head coach Helen Higgs her 350th career victory.
Whitworth swept the season series from the Wildcats and improved to 9-11 overall and 5-6 in the Northwest Conference. The Wildcats dropped to 9-11, 3-8 as the Bucs earned their first NWC road win of the season.
The Pirates took the initiative in the opening quarter, jumping to a 17-8 lead on a basket by Erika Kuehn. But Linfield rallied to within 20-16 at the end of the quarter. Thoens had seven points in the opening period.
Linfield continued to chip away in the second period and eventually tied the game 40-40 at the break. The Wildcats took their first lead of the game when Paige Graham scored to give Linfield a 36-35 advantage.
Grace Douglas hit a jumper to give Whitworth a 51-47 lead just over halfway through the third quarter. But then Linfield went on an 8-0 run, going up 55-51 on a basket by Audrey McMillan. The Wildcats eventually led 61-58 after three quarters.
It looked like Higgs' 350th win would have to wait at least one more night after Linfield opened the final quarter by increasing its lead to 66-59 with 8:40 to play in the game.
Whitworth still trailed 61-57 with just under six minutes to play when the Pirates ran off an 11-0 run to take over the momentum. Douglas scored to tie the game 71-71 and Madison Moffat followed with a three-pointer that gave the Bucs a lead they would never relinquish. After Linfield got back within 78-74 with just over a minute to play, Douglas iced the game with a three-pointer on the Pirates' next possession.
Thoens surpassed her previous career high of 18 points by making 8-11 shots from the floor, including 3-3 from three-point range. She went 6-8 at the free throw line, including three freebies in the final 20 seconds. Douglas added 18 points and Moffat scored a dozen. Whitworth shot 48% (29-60) from the field, 50% (6-12) from beyond the arc.
Graham scored 17 points off of the bench to lead the Wildcats. McMillan added 12 points and Riley Graham finished with ten. Linfield shot 45% (26-58) from the field and 46% (6-13) from three-point range.
Higgs, who became the first coach in Northwest Conference history to reach 300 career victories, is now 350-234 in her 23rd season leading the Pirates.