FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – With Hannah Munger scoring 19 points inside and their guards hitting 10 three-pointers from outside, the George Fox University Bruins advanced to their second NCAA Division III National Tournament "Final Four" with a 68-45 win over the host University of Mary Washington Eagles Saturday here at the William H. Anderson Center.
With the win in a battle of unbeatens, third-ranked George Fox improves to 31-0 and advances to the "Final Four" Friday-Saturday, Mar. 16-17, at Hope College's DeVos Fieldhouse in Holland, Mich. The Bruins won the NCAA national championship in 2008-09 in Holland, going 32-0 and defeating Washington University-St. Louis 60-53 in the title game. Seventh-ranked Mary Washington ended its season 30-1.
George Fox's opponent in Friday's national semi-final will be the only other undefeated team left in the tournament, the defending national champion and No.1-ranked Amherst College Lord Jeffs (31-0). The other semi-final game will pit the Illinois Wesleyan University Titans (26-5) vs. the University of St. Thomas Tommies (30-1). Exact times, ticket information, and other details are still to be announced.
The Bruins, playing in an "Elite 8" game for the fourth straight year and fifth time in history, never trailed. Munger hit a jumper 20 seconds in before Katie Wimmer's layup tied it, but Keisha Gordon, the Bruins' all-time leading scorer, hit back-to-back threes for an 8-2 lead and the Bruins were on their way.
A three by Dacia Heckendorf gave George Fox its first 10-point lead of 18-8 with 10:26 left in the half, and another three Jami Roos made it 21-10 at the 8:20 mark, the Bruins' largest lead of the period. The Eagles twice trimmed their deficit to five points, the second at 23-18 on a jumper by Carol Dye with 4:12 to go, but an 8-2 run, capped by a trey from Arianna Mohsenian, enabled the Bruins to lead 31-21 at the half.
Wimmer hit a layup to open the second half to bring the home team within eight at 31-23, but that was as close as they would get. Munger hit two baskets around a layup by Megan Arnoldy as the Bruin lead grew to 14 at 37-23 with 16:48 to play. Mary Washington made one final effort to get back in the game as threes by Jenna McRae and Amanda Witmer drew them within nine at 48-39 with 9:18 remaining, but it was their last gasp.
In a little over two minutes, the Bruins erupted for 11 unanswered points, Gordon hitting a three and Roos a pair from downtown, to balloon the lead to 20 points at 59-39 with seven minutes left. Roos eventually gave George Fox its largest lead with 17 seconds left on two free throws that made it 68-43.
George Fox could not have been more consistent, hitting .500 (12-24) from the field in the first half and .560 (14-25) in the second for a final .531 mark (26-49). On threes, the Bruins shot .545 (6-11) in the first half, .500 (4-8) in the second, and .526 (10-19) for the game. Mary Washington was held to a .327 percentage (18-55) from the floor and only .200 (2-10) from long range. It was only the third time all season a team had scored 50 points or more against Mary Washington, the national leader in scoring defense. The Bruins also held a 35-28 advantage on the boards.
Munger posted her second consecutive double-double, 13th of the season, and 38th of her career with 19 points on 9-12 field goals and 10 rebounds, along with five blocked shots. Roos scored 16 points, including four three-pointers, and Gordon added 14 points, with a trio of threes. Arnoldy, Mohsenian, and Gordon passed out three assists, and Gordon made two steals.
McRae and Wimmer led the Eagles with 12 points each, and McRae had a team-high five rebounds. McRae handed out four assists, and Wimmer made three steals.
NOTES: Gordon increased her George Fox career record totals to 1,724 points and 288 steals ... Munger's blocked shots raised her career total to 322, 20th all-time in Division III history ... For fans who wish to greet the team upon their return to Portland Sunday afternoon, the Bruins are scheduled to arrive on Delta flight 1741 from Salt Lake City at 12:19 p.m. Pacific time.