Bearcats Hold Off Boxers for 56-54 NWC Win

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University built a 39-24 led in the first half and never gave up the lead, but the Bearcats had to hit 5 of 6 free throws in the final minute to secure a 56-54 victory over Pacific University on Friday, Jan. 25. The Northwest Conference win improved Willamette to 4-12 overall and to 2-5 in the NWC. Pacific dropped to 2-13 on the season, 1-6 in the NWC.

After creating their 15-point halftime lead on 44.4% shooting in the first half (16 of 36), the Bearcats connected on just 3 of 21 shots from the field over the final 20 minutes. Pacific gradually reduced the lead during the second half, eventually pulling within a single point at 51-50, on a jumper by Kalei Frank as the clock reached the 1:20 mark

When Frank scored, the Boxers had six team fouls, which meant the next three fouls on Pacific would send Willamette to the line for one-and-one opportunities. The Bearcats made sure the free throw chances worked in their favor.

With 56.3 seconds left, Alex Zennan (Fr., G, Sammamish, WA/Eastlake HS) increaased WU's lead to 53-50 by sinking two free throws. Frank missed a layup with 42 seconds left and Jenny Fillion (Jr., G, Silverton, OR/Silverton HS/Linn-Benton HS) grabbed the rebound. She was fouled and made both free throws.

Frank added a jumper for Pacific with 33 seconds remaining, as the Boxers cut the advantage to 55-52. Willamette kept possession of the ball for 20 seconds before Pacific fouled Jenny Fillion at the 13-second mark. Fillion made the front end of her one-and-one trip to the line, giving WU a 56-52 margin.

Kristina Stevens scored for Pacific with 0.2 seconds left. The Boxers called a 30-second time-out to set up their defense, but Willamette was able to in-bound the ball and end the game.

Zennan topped Willamette with 13 points, while Jenny Fillion tacked on 12 points. Molly Fillion (Jr., G, Silverton, OR/Silverton HS/Linn-Benton HS) and Laura Payne (Sr., G, Sammamish, WA/Skyline HS) added nine points apiece. Molly Fillion, Jenny Fillion and Tracie Nygaard (Sr., F, Knappa, OR/Knappa HS) tied for the team lead with seven rebound, as the Bearcats earned a 41-37 rebounding edge.

Amy Pederson led Pacific with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Stevens contributed 12 points and five boards. The Boxers connected on 23 of 55 shots (41.8%) during the game, but made only 5 of 16 free throws. WU was 9 of 10 at the line -- all in the second half.

In the opening half, Willamette scored the first five points and extended the lead to 16-4. Later, the Bearcats were in front 29-12, following a jumper by Vic Swigart (Jr., Newport Beach, CA/Newbort Harbor HS) at the 8:09 mark.

The second half started at a slow pace. Pacific scored the first point of the half on a basket by Stevens to cut WU's lead to 41-31 with 12:21 left. Willamette recorded its first points of the second half on a jumper by Zennan with 11:28 to go, as the 'Cats took a 43-33 lead. WU led 49-35 with 10:04 remaining, but Pacific was able to battle back during the following nine minutes.

Willamette remains at home to host the University of Puget Sound on Saturday, Jan. 26. Game time at Cone Field House is scheduled for 6 p.m. (PST).

Willamette University 56, Pacific University 54
Freshman guard Alex Zennan led the Bearcats with 13 points against Pacific University.

Freshman guard Alex Zennan led the Bearcats with 13 points against Pacific University.