PAC LUTHERAN 86, GEORGE FOX 61: Lutes Beat Bruins but Neither Make NWC Tourney
PARKLAND, Wash. – After a surprising bid all year long to make the Northwest Conference men's basketball four-team tournament at the end of the season, the George Fox University Bruins' darkhorse run to the tournament ended abruptly with an 86-61 thumping by the Pacific Lutheran University Lutes Saturday night here at Olson Auditorium.
George Fox, PLU, and Lewis & Clark College entered Saturday's action in a three-way tie for the fourth and final playoff spot, so the best the Lutes and Bruins could hope for was a loss by the Pioneers, who instead knocked off Pacific University 70-57. The Lutes finished in a tie with the Pios, but lost out on the tiebreaker (L&C split with co-second place Whitman but PLU lost to the Missionaries twice). PLU finished 12-13 overall and 9-7 in the conference, while the Bruins ended with an 11-14 mark and placed sixth with an 8-8 league mark.
George Fox held two early leads, at 2-0 on a Sean Atkins layup and 3-2 after a Mike Taylor free throw, but Cameron Schilling drilled a jumper to put the home team on top 4-3 two minutes into the game and the Lutes were off to the races. A hot .543 shooting percentage (19-35) in the first half, including an incredible .727 (8-11) from three-point range, enabled the Lutes to turn the game into a runaway. They also handed out 14 first-half assists and did not commit a turnover.
Pacific Lutheran took its first double-digit lead at 22-11 on Arvid Isaksen's jumper with 10:53 left in the period. Cam Rier hit a three to bring the Bruins within 10 at 29-19 with 7:04 left, but that was the last they would score before the break as the Lute reeled off 20 unanswered points to hit the intermission ahead 49-19. Zachary Klein and Cameron Reister had 11 points each and Isaksen added 10 to lead the Lutes in the half. Atkins tossed in seven and Corey Clark six for the Bruins.
George Fox finally found its shooting touch in the second half, sinking 18-32 (.563) from the field, but unfortunately for the Bruins, the Lutes did not cool off much, making 13-26 (.500) in the final 20 minutes. The Bruins opened the half with an 11-3 run, including a downtown three by Anthony Sanchez and conventional three-point plays by Taylor and Atkins, to make it a 22-point game at 52-30 with 17 minutes left, but that was as close as they would come as the Lutes cruised to the victory.
Atkins led the Bruins with 18 points, 11 in the second half, and Spencer Bolte scored all 10 of his points in the final half. Taylor pulled down eight rebounds, and he and Clark had a pair of assists; the Bruins had only five in the game. Atkins also blocked four shots and had two steals.
Five players reached double digits for PLU: Isaksen with 17, Schilling 16, Klein 15, James Conti 12, and Reister 11. Klein had nine rebounds in leading the Lutes to a 36-30 edge on the glass. Conti had a double-double with 12 assists and also picked up five steals. The Lutes committed only four turnovers, all in the second half, and finished with a .525 shooting mark (32-61), including .524 (11-21) from three-point range.