SANTA CRUZ, CA -- The Whitworth Pirates brought an undefeated record and a physical style of play to the West Field House on Friday night. UC Santa Cruz battled Whitworth tooth and nail but eventually succumbed to the Pirates dropping a tough 68-61 decision in front of a raucous crowd.
The referees let the teams battle. Coach Todd Kent's requests for fouls due to the Pirates rough inside play fell on deaf ears. This played into the Pirates physical style. The Pirates used a variety of double teams to prevent the Slugs from getting the ball to the inside power duo of Sarah Mackey and Leah Parrish and opened an early 8-4 lead. The Slugs fought back behind 14 points from Ryan Ortiz and the high energy play of Sarah Crane. Layups by Mackey and Ortiz and free throws by Crane gave the Slugs a 9-8 lead with 14 minutes to go. The teams traded blows through the rest of the second half as Parrish and Geena Giovannetti drained 3 pointers. A tough driving layup by Trina Torres gave the Slugs a hard fought 34-30 half time lead.
The fight continued early in the second half as the teams traded baskets The Pirates went on a small 4-0 run but a layup by Mackey knotted the score at 40 with 15 minutes to go. The physical play of the games forced Mackey and Parrish to the bench for a much needed rest. This was the critical point as the Slugs went to a smaller lineup in order to turn up the pressure on the Pirates. The strategy partially worked as the Pirates missed several shots, however, the smaller line-up was unable to keep the Pirates off the boards. Whitworth converted several offensive rebounds into baskets and built an insurmountable 57-45 lead.
The Slugs rallied twice cutting the lead to five points - once behind layups by Giovannetti and Taylor Willis and another time by layups behind Erin Joo and Trina Torres. The Slugs pressed all over the court in a desperate attempt to get the ball. Twice the Pirates handled the pressure and converted critical 3 point baskets which dashed all hopes of a Slug comeback.
The Slugs play the nationally rank Whitman College on Saturday November 23 at 3:30pm.