WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. – The Missionaries (23-5) are headed to the quarterfinals after providing a gritty performance, edging Emory 67-62 after trailing nearly the entire game and withstanding a 67 percent shooting performance from beyond the arc by the Eagles in the first half.
After trailing for more than 39 minutes, the Missionaries took the lead for the first time with 38 seconds left when Heather Johns hit two free throws to push Whitman up by one 63-62. After a missed 3-pointer by the Eagles, senior forward Mary Madden grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled. Madden coolly hit two from the line to give the Missionaries a 65-62 cushion. After another Emory miss, Sarah Anderegg sank two more from the charity stripe with 16 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
“I thought our kids did a great job of staying in the game and giving ourselves a chance” coach Michelle Ferenz said. “That has been our character all year.”
Anderegg was her usual consistent self, scoring eight points in each half to lead the team in scoring with 16 (5-for-7 from the field and 6-for-7 from the line) to go along with seven rebounds and two blocks. Johns, who did not record a point in the first twenty minutes, finished with 13. Madden also tallied 13. Meghan White added six along with a game-high nine boards — five on the offensive end.
Although Whitman trailed by as many as 12 in the first stanza, when Emory’s Danielle Landry converted a layup with 9:51 remaining on the clock, and saw the Eagles hit 6 of 9 3-pointers, the Missionaries only trailed by 6 at half 37-31, converting an impressive 52 percent from the field and a perfect 3 of 3 from the charity stripe.
In the second half, the Whitman defense clamped down, holding the Eagles to 37 percent shooting and the offense continued to click — 50 percent in the second twenty minutes (13-for-26) — while the Missionaries took control of the glass. After having only two more rebounds than Emory in the first half, Whitman outrebounded the Eagles 22 to 10 in the 2nd.
“Our whole motto this year has been ‘to find a way’”, Meghan White told the press after the game. “We have played every game like it is our last and we have played as a team which is why we’ve been successful.”
Early in the second half, Emory’s Misha Jackson, who finished with 13, hit two jumpers in a row, giving the Eagles an eight-point lead, but the Missionaries slowly chipped away and cut the lead to three, the closest they had been since three minutes into the game 52-49, when Halie Buse stole the ball and fed Tiffani Traver for a fastbreak layup with 11:58 remaining. A couple of minutes later, Johns hit a pull-up jumper to cut the lead to one.
The Eagles’ Danielle Landry, who poured in a game-high 17, kept the Whits from grabbing the lead with a couple of clutch buckets, but when Johns fought for an offensive rebound and drew a foul, the Missionaries finally broke through for good.
“It’s such an honor to be here representing the Northwest Conference, representing the Walla Walla community,” Anderegg said. “No one thought we’d be here. We thought our season was over two weeks ago and to come this far, is a dream.”