GEORGE FOX 76, WHITMAN 73: Bruins Top Missionaries to Regain 2nd in NWC Standings
NEWBERG, Ore. – A.J. Grant buried his fourth three-pointer of the game from the left corner with 14 seconds left, giving George Fox University a 76-73 win over the Whitman College Missionaries that lifted the Bruins into second place in the Northwest Conference men's basketball standings Saturday evening here at the Wheeler Sports Center's Miller Gym.
George Fox climbed back above the .500 mark, improving to 7-6 overall and 3-2 in the conference. Whitman slipped to 9-6 overall and 3-3 in the NWC. Depending on the outcome of Saturday's late game between Willamette University and Pacific Lutheran University, the Bruins could be all alone behind league-leading Whitworth University or tied for second with Willamette.
The Bruins blasted out of the starting blocks, racing to a 12-0 lead in the first 3:17 of the game on baskets by Seth Brent, Jon Adrian and Sean Atkins, and three-pointers by Grant and Anthony Sanchez. Drew Raher finally broke the Missionaries' scoreless streak with a layup at the 15:47 mark, and they gradually climbed back into the game over the next 10 minutes behind 6-10 center Ben Eisenhardt's 12 first-half points.
Ryan Gilkey hit back-to-back layups to bring the visitors within two at 28-26 with 6:23 left in the period, and Peter Clark's three at the 2:56 mark secured the first tie of the game at 33-33. Four times the Bruins regained two-point leads, only the have the Missionaries tie it each time, before Grant drained a trey with 23 seconds to go, giving the home team a 42-39 edge at the intermission.
George Fox torched the twine to the tune of a .577 shooting percentage (15-26) in the opening 20 minutes to a .459 mark (17-37) for Whitman, which got 11 offensive boards to keep the game close. Grant had 10 at the break to pace the Bruins.
Grant hit another three and a layup to begin the second half as the Bruins went back up by eight 47-39, but the Missionaries chiseled away at their deficit and took their first lead of the game 55-54 on a pair of Eisenhardt free throws with 12:58 left in the game. The biggest margin either team had thereafter was four points, Whitman going up 60-56 at 10:42 on a three-point play by Eisenhardt before the Bruins used an 11-3 run, sealed by a Josh Garlington three, for a 67-63 lead with 7:09 left.
The Bruins never trailed again, but the Missionaries forged two more ties in the final two minutes. Josh Duckworth's layup at 1:57 knotted it 71-71, and after Sanchez gave the Bruins the lead on a drive with 57 seconds left, Eisenhardt hit two more freebies with 39 seconds remaining to make it 73-73. The Bruins then ran the shot clock down and Adrian found Grant alone in the corner for the game-winner. Closely guarding the Whitman three-point shooters to prevent a tying shot, Atkins batted the ball off Raher and out of bounds with 0.5 ticks left, and the Bruins successfully inbounded the ball to preserve the thrilling victory.
Grant hit 7-12 from the field, including 4-6 from beyond the arc, on the way to a Bruin-leading 19 points, while Atkins added 17 and Sanchez 13. George Fox finished with a .509 field goal percentage (27-53), including .476 (10-21) from long distance. Sanchez had eight rebounds and six assists.
Eisenhardt collected 24 points on 9-13 from the floor and 6-10 from the line, and just missed a double-double with a game-high nine rebounds, which helped the Missionaries to a 41-29 margin on the boards, 21 on the offensive end. Duckworth added 16 points and Gilkey 10. Whitman shot .439 (29-66) for the game, but only .211 (4-19) on threes.
NEXT: George Fox plays the third of six straight home games, hosting the University of Puget Sound, while Whitman returns home to entertain Linfield College, both games on Friday at 8:00 p.m. The games will be preceded by NWC women's contests at 6:00 p.m.