Bearcats Clinch 3rd Place in NWC with 63-59 Win versus Pacific Lutheran

Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS)
Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

SALEM, Ore. -- Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) hit a 3-point shot from the left elbow to give Willamette a 58-56 lead with 49 seconds left and the Bearcats went on to defeat Pacific Lutheran University, 63-59, during Senior Night at Cone Field House on Saturday, Feb. 10. Prior to the game, Towry was honored for setting Willamette's career scoring record, and all six seniors were recognized for their accomplishments with the Bearcats.

Willamette's seniors are Towry, Whitney Anderson (Sr., G, Willamina, OR/Willamina HS), Mary Eckenrode (Sr., G, Higley, AZ/Highland HS), Ashley Evans (Sr., PG, Canby, OR/Canby HS), Celine Gregoire (Sr./Jr., P, Woodburn, OR/ Woodburn Academy), and Kelsey Walker (Sr./Jr., G, Westerville, OH/Westerville North HS).

The win improved Willamette's record to 14-9 overall, including 10-4 in the Northwest Conference. The victory clinched third place in the final regular season NWC standings before next week's road trip to take on Whitman College and Whitworth University. Willamette also clinched the #3 seed in the four-team NWC Tournament, which will begin with the semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 22 and conclude with the championship game on Saturday, Feb. 24. Pacific Lutheran dropped to 5-18 on the season, 1-13 in the NWC.

In addition, Willamette clinched a winning record for the entire season including postseason play. Willamette's last winning record was in 2000-01, when the Bearcats went 17-8 overall and 12-4 in the NWC.

"Tonight was a great night for our program," Willamette Head Coach Peg Swadener said. "To have our seniors finish in Cone Field House with a win, clinching a spot in the postseason tournament and securing a winning record is a major accomplishment. I'm so thankful for all the work Whitney, Ashley, Celine, Kelsey, Kylie and Mary have put into this program. They have set the bar high for the future of Bearcat women's basketball."

Towry scored 11 of Willamette's 15 points in the fourth quarter to finish the evening with a game-high 21 points. The Bearcats trailed 55-51 with 4:52 remaining, but back-to-back layups by Towry tied the game. Anna Hurd of PLU broke the tie when she sank 1 of 2 free throws with 2:37 left, but Towry's 3-pointer with less than a minute to go but the Bearcats in front for good.

With 22 second left, Towry tacked on two free throws for a 60-56 lead. PLU called timeout to advance the ball, and Emma Janousek reduced the margin to two points with a layup four seconds later.

Towry was fouled with 15 seconds on the clock. She connected on both shots at the line to give WU a 62-58 advantage. Kristin Sturdivan made 1 of 2 free throws for the Lutes with seven seconds remaining, but Britanny Kochenderfer (Jr., G, Klamath Falls, OR/Henley HS/Idaho State Univ.) clinched the victory for the Bearcats by hitting the second of two free throws one second later.

While leading all players in scoring, Towry also provided Willamette with three rebounds, five assists and three steals. Kochenderfer added a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds, plus an assist, a blocked shot and three steals. Eckenrode scored seven points. Gregoire latched onto nine rebounds.

Hurd topped the Lutes with 19 points, nine boards and three steals. She was 7 of 10 from the field. Madison Salisbury gained 18 points and six boards. Janousek scored nine points.

Willamette struggled for most of the first quarter, as the Bearcats committed eight turnovers and went 0 for 4 from 3-point range. The Bearcats did achieve leads of 4-0 and 6-5, but the Lutes responded with an 11-0 run for a 16-6 advantage with 1:45 left. Willamette pulled within six points at 15-10 following a jumper by Jada Leonard (Fr., G, Kent, WA/Kentlake HS) with 0:28 on the clock. Lauren Furu tacked on two free throws for the Lutes to give Pacific Lutheran an 18-10 lead.

PLU was in front 20-12 after Janousek hit two free throw with 8:09 to go in the half. Willamette responded with an 8-0 run to tie the game, as Eckenrode scored the final five points on a 3-pointer and a jump shot. After Hurd put in a jumper for the Lutes, Kochenderfer nailed a 3-pointer to give WU a 23-22 lead with 4:06 left. A bit later, the Bearcats led 29-24 on a layup by Amanda Carpenter (Fr., G, Beaverton, OR/Sunset HS), only to see PLU score the last four points of the half. Willamette held a slim 29-28 margin at the break.

The Lutes tied the score three times in the third quarter, but never took the lead. The game was tied at 47-47 after Madison Green-Hayward hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining. Gregoire was fouled after an offensive rebound with six seconds to go. She converted 1 of 2 free throws, giving Willamette a 48-47 led at the start of the final quarter.

A 3-pointer from Evans with 8:35 left extended WU's advantage to 51-47. The Lutes added the next eight points, starting with a 3-pointer by Hurd, create a 55-51 lead for PLU. Willamette's rally -- keyed by Towry -- followed as the Bearcats battled back for the win.

For the game, Willamette was 22 of 49 from the field (44.9%) and 6 of 19 on 3-point shots (31.6%). WU sank 13 of 18 free throws (72.2%), with Towry going 6 for 6. Pacific Lutheran shot 42.3% overall (22 of 52) and made 4 of 7 three-point attempts (57.1%). The Lutes went 11 for 15 at the line (73.3%). Each team grabbed 30 rebounds.