If a half-dozen freshman can live up to the potential Helen Higgs sees, especially defensively, the Whitworth women’s basketball team should return to the upper echelon of the Northwest Conference.
That’s because the Pirates return six seniors, including four starters, to go with those newcomers.
“I like my team, they bring a lot of energy,” said Higgs, who is entering her 16th season. “Need to defend better than last year, but I think we’re a better defensive team. We’re getting freshmen out of good programs.”
Her other concern is finishing on offense.
“We got pretty good shots last year,” she said. “We’ve been trying to shoot more, make a commitment to get them reps.”
Leading the team is all-league forward Cassie Pilkinton, a senior out of Chelan, Wash. She averaged 13.6 points last year, shooting 43.5 percent from 3-point range and grabbing 4.7 rebounds per game. Senior point guard Leah Pomate, from Mt. Spokane, averaged 6.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists. Natalie Orell, a senior wing from Wenatchee, averaged 10.5 points last year after averaging more than 12 and earning honorable mention honors as a sophomore. The post is senior Liz Horiatis, who is a junior in eligibility. The 6-footer from Woodinville averaged 10.6 points and 6.6 rebounds.
Stepping into the lineup at small forward is senior Kim Bluff (Cusick).
Among the freshmen is Emily Travis, a forward from Lewis and Clark.
“We’re still trying to figure out where everybody fits in,” Higgs, a three-time coach of the year with a 227-152 record, said. “We play a tough preseason schedule to get us ready for the conference. Our goal is to get into the tournament and see what happens.
“We’d like to win our league, but with George Fox going undefeated last year, I’m not going to be cocky.”
The 1-1 Pirates head to a tournament in Colorado Springs this weekend. They play their first home game Dec. 11.
Gonzaga (3-1) faces North Dakota (0-3) at The Kennel tonight before heading to California to take on second-ranked Stanford (currently 4-0) on Sunday. The Bulldogs return home to meet Eastern Washington (3-1) on Tuesday. Before that the Eagles are at the Husky Classic in Seattle, meeting Washington (1-2) on Friday and Memphis (2-2) on Sunday.
Washington State (1-2) remains on the road for the Lady Rebel Round-up in Las Vegas. The Cougars face Bradley (1-2) and Boise State (4-0) meets UNLV (2-2) on Friday.
Idaho (0-3) is at the World Vision Classic, facing host No. 8 Baylor (1-2) on Friday, Lamar (2-1) on Saturday and Louisiana-Lafayette (1-1) on Sunday.
USC sophomore Michelle Jenkins suffered a season-ending left knee injury in last Thursday’s 70-58 loss at Gonzaga. … Portland State junior Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) and coach Sherri Murrell missed last week’s 92-80 loss at Boise State because of the flu. …Katie Baker, a freshman from Lake City, had 15 points and nine rebounds but Montana lost to Oregon 86-81 to fall to 0-3 on the season. … Eastern Oregon’s NAIA team is 4-2 (not counting exhibition losses to Idaho and Washington State) with senior Ashley Michelson (North Central/CCS), junior Samantha Flett (Wellpinit) and sophomore Kyle Miller (Cheney) starting all six games. Senior Selena Levitt (Central Valley) has started all three games she’s been available with junior Alyssa Garro (Pullman) starting one of the games Levitt missed.
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