Payne and Bell Lead Bearcats to Comeback Win over Whittier, 63-58; Both Earn All-Tournament Honors

Los Angeles CA — Laura Payne scored eight of the Bearcat’s last 14 points as the Willamette University women’s basketball team came from behind to defeat Whittier College 63-58 in the second day of the Tiger Poet Classic at Occidental College.

The Bearcats (4-5 overall) were paced by Jennifer Bell’s 18 points. Payne finished with 14 points and both were named to the All-Tournament team.

Sara Brooks tallied 13 points, five rebounds and five assists as the Bearcats used clutch foul-shooting down the stretch to hold off Whittier.

The game was close throughout. Whittier opened up leads up to six points twice in the second half before the Bearcats rallied from a 54-49 deficit to outscored Whittier 14-4 in the final five minutes.

Payne started the winning run with a jumper and free throw to pull Willamette within two. After a Whittier free throw, Bell stole the ball and scored to make it 55-54.

Payne gave the Bearcats the lead for good when Brooks stole the ball and fed her for a basket at the 3:07 mark. Payne scored again to put Willamette up three just under two minutes left.

A pair of Brittany Farrer free throws pushed it to 60-55. Brooks hit 2-4 free throws and Payne went 1-2 in the final minute capping a night of comebacks.

Willamette fell behind 14-6 in the first ten minutes of the game, but stormed back to tie it at 15-15 on hoops from Maggie Wilkens, Victoria Swigart and Tracie Nygaard capped by a 3-pointer from Bell.

Payne and Brooks each hit 3-pointers in the final minute and the Bearcats took a 27-26 lead into the locker room.

Whittier went up 37-31 in the first five minutes of the second half, but the Bearcats battled back again to take the lead at 40-39 on a Farrer basket.. A pair of 3’s from Whittier put them back on top before Willamette ended the game with the 14-4 run.

While Whittier out-rebounded the Bearcats 32-21, Farrer had a game-high 11 boards to go along with six points. Whittier shot 41% from the floor while the Bearcats overcame a 35% shooting night to pull out the win.

The Bearcats are off until after the new year. They host Cascade on Jan. 3 before returning to NWC play.