George Fox returns to title game behind Munger's 36
HOLLAND, Mich. – It took a giant performance by George Fox University center Hannah Munger to dethrone defending national champion Amherst in Friday's NCAA Division III women's basketball national semifinal at DeVos Fieldhouse.
Munger, the Bruins' 6-foot-5 junior center, dominated the inside with a career-high 36 points and 13 rebounds in leading the Bruins to a 76-69 victory over Amherst, ending the Lord Jeffs' 50-game winning streak, the third-longest in Division III history.
George Fox (32-0), which won the 2009 national championship in Holland, advances to play the winner of Friday's second semifinal between St. Thomas (Minn.) and Illinois Wesleyan at 7 p.m. Saturday night. Amherst (31-1) will play in the 4 p.m. third-place game.
"We have no doubt that Hannah's a great player," Bruins' coach Michael Meek said. "She stepped up and had a great game in a big game. She did a great job of attacking the basket and knocking down her free throws."
Munger made 11 of 16 shots from the field and 14 of 16 from the foul line, much better than her season free-throw percentage of 53.2 percent entering the game.
In a back-and-forth game that saw 10 ties and 11 lead changes, the Bruins had the final answer.
After Amherst's Marcia Voigt hit a rainbow 3-point basket to tie the game at 64-64 with 3:32 remaining, George Fox regained the lead on a jumper by sophomore Megan Arnoldy 30 seconds later. Arnoldy added two free throws on the Bruins' next possession, and All-American forward Keisha Gordon, one of four remaining players from George Fox's 2009 title team, scored on a driving layup with 1:24 remaining to give the Bruins a 70-64.
Voigt's layup cut the lead 70-66 with 1:09 left, and Amherst had an opportunity to pull closer after forcing a turnover in the backcourt seconds later. But the Lord Jeffs missed two free throws, and got no closer the rest of the way.
"This is a tough one to take. Give George Fox all the credit," Amherst coach G.P. Gromacki said. "They fought hard and made the plays they had to, to win. I'm proud of my team, of how we fought back. When we were down, they responded. We just couldn't make the one play to get over the hump."
With All-American forward Caroline Stedman getting the hot hand early, Amherst built up a 20-12 lead seven minutes into the game. But George Fox, consistently pounding the ball down low to Munger, chipped away at the lead, pulling to within 23-22 with 7:48 remaining in the first half, as Munger scored 16 of those points.
But even after Munger went out with her second foul, George Fox kept up the pressure. After a 3-pointer by Amherst's Kim Fiorentino, George Fox responded with seven straight points, capped off by a Gordon drive, take a 31-27 lead with 4:32 left in the half.
Amherst made a late run before the half, taking the lead on Jackie Renner's reverse layup with less than a minute remaining. The Lord Jeffs led 37-36 at halftime.
In addition to Munger's 36 points, Arnoldy scored 14 points and Gordon added 12 points, nine rebounds and five steals, two of them in the final two minutes.
Stedman led Amherst with 22 points, while Voigt added 15.
George Fox shot 48 percent from the field (25 of 52), while limiting Amherst to 37.5 percent (24 of 64). The Bruins outscored the Lord Jeffs at the free throw line 25-11, despite missing six straight free throws in the final minute.