February 3, 2010 in Sports

Women’s basketball: Pilkinton proves she’s one tough Pirate

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Pilkinton
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

Zags set attendance record

Gonzaga is averaging a record 2,799 fans this season, up exactly 400 from last year, which included a sellout of 6,000 for the Tennessee game.

The other seven WCC teams average less than the league average of 848. San Francisco is second at 634, boosted by a sellout of more than 4,000 for a game against Tennessee.

The Zags, who have two home games left, have had four of their top 10 crowds in history this season, despite winning their 13 home games by an average of 32 points.

There’s pain and then there’s pain.

Cassie Pilkinton’s knee hurt enough that she had an MRI in October. It was discovered she had a fractured knee cap.

“Talking to the doctor, he didn’t think there was a high chance of me hurting it any worse,” she said.

So Pilkinton made the decision most college athletes would probably make.

“I knew as long as I could, I’d try to push through the pain,” she said. “Luckily, it hasn’t been unbearable so far. I’ve been looking at it as a blessing in that way.

“It’s hard to explain. I just really enjoy playing. … I just wasn’t ready for it to be over.

Pilkinton definitely plays for the love of the game since she makes her baskets for Whitworth, which doesn’t give athletic scholarships as an NCAA Division III school.

And the Pirates need her. After transferring from North Idaho College, the 5-foot-10 wing led Whitworth in scoring last season at 13.6 points a game, earning second-team All-Northwest Conference honors.

“I knew she’d be good, but I don’t know if I knew she’d be this good,” Whitworth coach Helen Higgs said. “She’s a good scorer and recently she’s had a lot of assists. She’s versatile and she plays both ends. You don’t always get that from people that score.”

Pilkinton said that comes from her time at NIC, which the 2A all-state player and league MVP for Chelan, Wash., chose because she wanted to get as much playing time as possible.

“I got to progress more than most freshmen and sophomores,” she said. “(Coaches) Chris and Cary (Carlson) know a lot about the game. Another reason it was a good experience is my sophomore year Aubree Johnson (from Post Falls and Arizona State) coached. I learned a lot of things, especially defensively, that made me grow as a player.”

Whitworth was a logical destination, because it was familiar from when her sister attended and Higgs recruited her in high school.

The injury put Pilkinton a little behind coming into this season, but only to the extent she came off the bench the first two games. Now she leads the Pirates in scoring (12.2 per game) and rebounding (5.7) and is second in total assists (49) and steals (37).

Eagles regroup

Eastern Washington takes a break from Big Sky Conference play to face Seattle (4-19) tonight at Reese Court, where the Eagles are 8-1.

“We know Seattle is a hard-nosed and well-coached team,” EWU coach Wendy Schuller said. “However, our main focus will continue to be on conference opponents.”

The Eagles hope to bounce back from their first Big Sky loss when Sacramento State, winners of four straight, visit on Saturday. EWU won 90-85 at Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 31.

Schuller has 50 league wins, third among active .

Tip-ins

Idaho let a chance at history slip through its fingers Saturday in Ruston, La. The Vandals let a six-point lead in the final minute get away before falling to Louisiana Tech 74-71 in overtime. Idaho has never beaten the Techsters. … Montana redshirt sophomore Misty Atkinson (Clarkston) played two minutes last weekend, her first action after a preseason knee injury. … GSL alumnae in Portland had a nice Saturday. Kelli Valentine (Mead) scored a game-high 17 points and Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) added 10 as Portland State handed Eastern Washington its first conference loss, 67-60. … Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep) had 16 points as Portland beat Santa Clara 73-65. … Weber State senior Tonya Schnibbe (University High) has 16 straight games with four or more assists and is seventh on the Big Sky career list with 518. … Loyola Marymount junior Louella Tomlinson needs 15 blocked shots to pass the NCAA career record of 480 set by Texas Christian’s Sandora Irvin.

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