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Whitworth’s Pilkinton ignores pain

Whitworth senior Cassie Pilkinton (pictured above, taken by Kirk Hirota) is the subject of this week's women's basketball notebook. It appears below in a longer version with more notes than will ever make Wednesday's newspaper.

The only other news is Gonzaga creeping up to 26th in the ESPN/Coaches poll. On that subject, I stumbled into a bracket prediction that gave the Zags a No. 9 seed, facing Michigan at Knoxville with Tennessee a possible second-round opponent. EWU, as the Big Sky leader/representative was a No. 15 headed to Minneapolis to face Ohio State.

Don't put a lot of stock in that bracket, Baylor isn't in the tournament. I'm still convinced Gonzaga and Eastern go to Seattle, although Stanford, Cal and Arizona State are also opening weekend hosts.

By Dave Trimmer

davet@spokesman.com; (509) 927-2154

There’s pain and then there’s pain.

Cassie Pilkinton’s knee hurt enough that she got an MRI in October and 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 players college athletes would make.

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

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

Pilkinton is definitely playing 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 Pilkinton 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 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) and rebounding (5.7) and is second in assists (49) and steals (37).

The Pirates (10-9, 6-4) take a four-game winning streak on the road this weekend, highlighted by a Saturday visited to George Fox (17-2, 10-2), the defending national champion.

“It’s great to have a lot of confidence,” Pilkinton said. “It was tough at the beginning, we lost a lot of close games. Now we’re playing well. One of our biggest strengths is we’re a deep team.”

The elementary education major with a special education minor will return next fall to student teach. She can see herself teaching fundamentals to young kids but she has a competitive streak that might lead her into coaching at a higher level. Ideally she could coach with her father, who was her youth coach and an assistant at Chelan.

First, though, surgery is looming.

“At this point I’ve probably had the fracture for so long, no matter when I do surgery I’m not be 100 percent,” she said. “The doctor told me if there was a surgery I could do now that could heal it and it would be normal, he would tell me not to play, but there isn’t. It’s kind of a bummer long term.”

 

Of note

Eastern Washington takes a break from league 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 Shuller 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 Sac on Dec. 31.

Schuller has 50 league wins, third among active coaches behind Montana’s Robin Selvig (280) and Weber State’s Carla Taylor (159).

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.

“I really felt like it was our gutsiest effort of the year,” UI coach Jon Newlee said in a school release. “To come out here with a big crowd and have a great chance to win a basketball against a team that I think physically has the most talent in the conference.”

The smaller Vandals had a41-37 rebounding advantage and freshman Kanisha Bello had 13 points in her first start.

Tip-ins

Montana red-shirt sophomore Misty Atkinson (Clarkston) played two minutes last weekend, her first action after a preseason knee injury. … Junior Jenna Galloway (Ferris) had 11 points as Northern Arizona picked up a rare road win, 76-64, at Montana State. Just a few minutes into MSU’s next game a leaky roof prompted the game to be moved to another court before the Bobcats finished off a 75-54 win over Northern Colorado. … GSL alumni 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 league loss, 67-60. The Eagles jumped out to a 17-2 lead in that game and lost for the first time when leading at halftime. Tara Cronin (Gonzaga Prep) had 16 points as Portland beat Santa Clara 73-65. … Weber State senior Tonya Schnibbe (University) has 16 straight games with four or more assists and is seventh on the Big Sky career list with 518. … 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 teams average below 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 and their No. 10 crowd is now 3,029, despite winning its 13 home games by an average of 32 points. … Loyola Marymount junior Louella Tomlinson needs 15 more blocked shots to pass the NCAA career record of 480 set by Texas Christian’s Sandora Irvin. … The Pac-10 leads the national with 14 individual 30-point games this season, led by the school-record 47 by California senior Alexis Gray-Lawson in a double-overtime win at Oregon State. The 47 is No. 3 on the league all-time list and most since 1996.



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