NEWBERG, Ore. – In a finish reminiscent of North Carolina State's upset of Houston in the 1983 NCAA Tournament, Conner Freeberg put back an air ball with 0.2 seconds left to give the Lewis & Clark College Pioneers a stunning 72-71 Northwest Conference men's basketball win in overtime over the George Fox University Bruins Saturday night here at the Wheeler Sports Center's Miller Gym.
With the win, Lewis & Clark broke a three-way tie for second in the conference with George Fox and Whitman College, which lost 74-68 at Pacific Lutheran University. The Pios are now 12-6 overall and 6-3 in the NWC, while the Bruins slipped to 9-8 overall and 5-4 in the league. Coupled with Pacific University's 97-96 overtime win at Willamette University, Pacific is now in third with a 5-3 NWC mark while George Fox and Whitman are tied for fourth in the tightly-packed standings.
The game started slowly as the Bruins missed three shots and made two turnovers on their first five possessions while the Pioneers had one turnover and four missed shots. Dexter Pearce hit a three-pointer three minutes in to give Lewis & Clark the first lead, but the Bruins responded by taking two-point leads twice, at 5-3 on a three by Seth Brent and 7-5 on a drive by Jon Adrian.
A layup and two free throws by Ben Neves and a bucket by Bradley Carter gave the Pios an 11-7 lead with 12 minutes to go, and the visitors did not trail again in the period, though the Bruins did manage two more ties, the last at 15-15 on a pair of Anthony Sanchez freebies with 6:15 left. Freeberg's layup at 5:26 broke the tie and started a 10-2 run, capped by a Ross Erickson three, that gave the Pios a 25-17 lead with three minutes to play. Lewis & Clark held a 29-23 lead at the break.
Erickson scored to open the second half for a 31-23 Pio advantage, but that was the largest lead of the game. The Bruins got back in it by reeling off 10 points in a row, Sanchez starting the comeback with a three-pointer, followed by a steal and dunk, and sealing it with another three for a 33-31 George Fox lead with 16:08 left. From that point on, there were five ties and seven more lead changes in the stanza.
A three by Pearce and two free throws by James Hollins boosted the Pios from a one-point edge to a 60-54 lead with 2:20 to go, but the Bruins fought back within one on a jumper by A.J. Grant and a Sanchez trey. Erickson's layup made it 62-59 with 57 seconds left, but Sanchez swished another three with 32 ticks remaining. Pearce missed a three with a second to go and the Bruins got one last try in regulation, but Sanchez drained an NBA-range three a split second too late and the game went into overtime.
The extra period featured three ties and six lead changes. Freeburg's two free throws with 46 seconds left gave L&C a 70-69 lead, and Spencer Bolte missed a go-ahead try for the Bruins with 30 seconds to go. Hollins rebounded, but Grant stole the ball when he tried to throw it downcourt, giving Bolte a chance to put the Bruins in front with a layup with 27 seconds to play. After a timeout with eight seconds left, the Pios tried to set up for a last shot and nearly lost the ball out of bounds, only to save it in to Hollins in the lane, who turned and fired up a desperation attempt with two seconds left. The ball was wide to the right, but Freeberg was alone under the goal for an easy score that left the Bruins no time to get off a final shot.
Sanchez led all scorers with 26 points for the Bruins, including 4-5 from beyond the arc, his second game in a row with that number of points, and Bolte added 18. Brent had a game-high 10 rebounds as the Bruins controlled the glass 49-38, including 17 on the offensive end. Sean Atkins passed out four assists and made two blocks, while Adrian and Grant had two steals apiece.
Erickson scored 18, Hollins 15, and Freeberg 11 for the Pios, while Pearce scored nine, all on threes. Hollins had a team-high seven rebounds, and he, Erickson, and Scott Pisapiia handed out two assists each. Pearce made two steals.
NEXT: George Fox, which ended a six-game home stand, visits Pacific University while Lewis & Clark hosts Linfield College Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Both games will follow NWC women's games at 6:00 p.m.