MCMINNVILLE, Ore. -- Separated by a single possession for the vast majority of the game, the Lewis & Clark Pioneers outlasted the Linfield Wildcats for a 75-67 victory at Ted Wilson Gymnasium on Saturday.
The victory allows Lewis & Clark to control its ability to qualify for the Northwest Conference tournament entering the final weekend of the regular season. With Puget Sound's loss against Pacific on Saturday, the Pioneers have a two-game lead over Puget Sound entering the final two games of the year.
Miyah Leith scored a career-high 33 points for the second-straight Saturday, matching what she scored against Whitworth a week ago.
"She's grown so much with her confidence," said Leith's classmate, Rachel Cox. "I trust that every time she has the ball it is going in."
Leith finished 9 of 16 from the floor and 13 of 16 from the free-throw line, as the Pioneers took a season-high 38 attempts from the line and made 29. Lauren Wood added 11 points, Janessa Willie had nine points with seven assists and Cox added eight in her second-straight start.
Following Linfield's senior night ceremony, the Pios opened up to an 11-1 lead. A 3-pointer by one of the Wildcats' seniors, Paige Graham, brought Linfield back to a tied game, 16-16, by the end of the first quarter. Graham finished with 13 points on two 3-pointers, one of three Wildcats in double figures, led by Kory Oleson's 16.
Offensive rebounding helped the Wildcats stay in the game after going scoreless from the field for the first six minutes. Linfield had 18 offensive rebounds and a 43-33 advantage overall, which included a 24-17 edge at halftime when the Wildcats led 29-26.
"Need to box out," said Cox about the lopsided offensive rebounding. "All five have to box out because if two people are, it's not going to work. We have to commit to it to get the boards under control."
The game remained close into the early fourth quarter and included 10 lead changes. For over a quarter of play -- from the 5:23 mark of the second quarter until there was 3:27 left in the third -- neither team led by more than a single possession.
Up 56-55 with 8:05 remaining, the Pioneers closed out the final period by outscoring Linfield, 19-12.
With George Fox's win over Whitman on Saturday, the two teams are tied for the NWC lead. Willamette also won on Friday, securing the third-place spot in the postseason tournament, which means that if Lewis & Clark wins one of its next two games (Friday at George Fox; Feb. 17 at home against Puget Sound), the Pioneers will travel to the conference champion in the NWC semifinals for the second-straight season.