WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- The Lewis & Clark Pioneers closed to within one point with 54 seconds remaining on Friday night at Sherwood Center before missed shots and turnovers kept the Pios from going ahead in a 63-61 loss to the No. 17 Whitman Blues.
Despite the loss, which would have given Lewis & Clark a season sweep of Whitman, the Pioneers qualified for the Northwest Conference postseason tournament after George Fox beat Whitworth, 73-54. The Pios will travel to Tacoma, Wash. on Thursday to play the No. 1 seed Puget Sound in the NWC semifinals.
The Pios had the ball with a chance to take the lead when Miyah Leith's layup missed with 1:11 left. On the ensuing possession, Whitman used Makana Stone's offensive rebound and putback off two missed free throws by Emily Rommell to take a three-point lead with 54 seconds left.
Deja Nicholas made a jumper on the Pioneers' next touch to bring Lewis & Clark within one again. The Pios forced a shot clock violation on the Blues' next possession, giving the ball back to the Pios with six seconds left.
On the inbound play, however, Leith's pass was taken away by Chelsi Brewer to seal the win for Whitman.
The Pioneers were attempting to take the season series from the Blues after Lewis & Clark won 79-70 on Jan. 21 in Portland.
Ayisat Afolabi led the Pioneers with 22 points on 6 of 10 shooting, her third straight 20-plus scoring game. Nicholas duplicated her double-digit scoring performance from the first meeting between the two teams, following up her 19-point night in January with 12 on Friday night, her first time in double figures since the first win over the Blues. Leith added 11 points.
The Pioneers had opened with two separate two-point leads, but never got in front again despite hanging within single digits the vast majority of the game. Lewis & Clark held Whitman without a 3-point field goal on six tries, which hadn't happened to the Blues all season.
Lewis & Clark finishes the regular season at Whitworth on Saturday at 4 p.m.
Other Northwest Conference Scores - Friday
Linfield 79, Pacific Lutheran 57
George Fox 73, Whitworth 54
Pacific 61, Willamette 58