PORTLAND, Ore. – In a game of national import that lived up to its billing, the George Fox University Bruins captured a hard-fought 68-63 victory over the Lewis & Clark College Pioneers in a battle of unbeaten nationally ranked teams in Northwest Conference women's basketball action Tuesday evening here at the Pamplin Sports Center.
George Fox, ranked third in both the D3hoops.com and USA Today/ESPN/Women's Basketball Coaches Association polls, remained undefeated at 12-0. The Bruins also moved into sole possession of first place in the conference at 3-0, breaking a three-way tie with Lewis & Clark and the idle University of Puget Sound. The Pios, ranked 10th by the WBCA and 11th by D3hoops, slipped to 11-1 overall and 2-1 in the NWC.
Lewis & Clark jumped out to a 4-0 lead on short jumpers by Sara Villanueva and Kristina Williams before the Bruins got three-pointers from Keisha Gordon and Arianna Mohsenian to forge a 6-6 tie at the 16:12 mark of the first half. Two free throws and a layup by Neva Hauser and a basket by Daron Dean gave the Pios a 12-6 lead with 14:35 left, but the Bruins responded with an 8-0 run featuring two free throws off a technical foul and a three by Jami Roos to take a lead for the first time at 14-12 midway through the period.
Williams, the 2010-11 NWC Player of the Year, hit a pair of threes as L&C regained the lead 15-14 and then tied it 18-18 with 8:04 left. After an exchange of baskets, a trey by Dacia Heckendorf, a jumper by Mohsenian, and a layup by Hannah Munger gave the Bruins their largest lead at 27-20 with 3:50 to go.
The Bruins were still up seven at 32-25 after a Mohsenian three with a minute left, but Villanueva hit a jumper and two free throws to make it 32-29 with 21 ticks to go. A three by Roos with eight seconds left boosted the Bruins back up 35-29, but the Pios scored on a fast break at the buzzer by Margaret Dowling that made it 35-31 but drew a technical on GFU coach Michael Meek for arguing that Dowling traveled.
The free throws were assessed at the start of the second half, and Villanueva hit them both, then Megan Spence scored on a back-door layin for a 35-35 tie. The Pios got back-to-back threes by Dowling and Hauser, the latter a bank shot, to take a 43-39 lead, but the Bruins regained the lead 44-43 at 16:06 on a drive and a three by Gordon. A 11-2 run over the next four minutes, including two big drives by Williams, gave the Pios their largest lead of 54-46 with 12:28 left.
George Fox struck back with a 13-0 run over the next five minutes on a layup by Carrie Myers, two putbacks by Munger, and two fast-break baskets and a three by Megan Arnoldy, to go ahead 59-54 with 7:05 to play. A three by Dean ended the run, and Villanueva pulled the Pios into a 61-61 tie with a driving hoop at the 5:10 mark. Gordon put the Bruins back in front with a back-door score at 4:49, then finished off a traditional three-point play at 3:47 for a 66-61 lead.
Both teams struggled thereafter, L&C turning the ball over frequently or missing shots but the Bruins failing to take advantage by missing free throws. Myers made a charity toss with 39 seconds left before Spence got a rebound basket with 11 seconds to go, and Gordon added a free throw with 9.9 seconds showing.
Gordon and Munger both posted double-doubles for the Bruins, the former with 18 points and 11 boards and the latter with 12 and 11. Gordon also handed out a game-high six assists, and Munger stuffed seven shots. Roos chipped in with 10 points and Hayley Cusick made four steals, three in the final five minutes to thwart any L&C comeback.
Williams paced the Pios with 16 points and Villanueva added 10. Spence was the L&C leader on the glass with five rebounds and also picked up five steals.
NEXT: George Fox plays its fourth straight conference road game Saturday at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Ore., tipping off at 6:00 p.m. … Lewis & Clark hosts Linfield College on Friday at 6:00 p.m. … Both games will be part of NWC doubleheaders, with the men's games following at 8:00 p.m.