by Jared Beilby, Student Intern
NEWBERG, Ore. – Junior A.J. Grant had a phenomenal stretch, scoring seven points in 19 seconds during the first half and 22 points total as the George Fox University Bruins defeated the Willamette University Bearcats 86-78 in Northwest Conference men's basketball action on Senior Night Saturday here at the Wheeler Sports Center's Miller Gym.
George Fox (16-9, 9-7 NWC) was eliminated from Northwest Conference Tournament contention after Lewis & Clark College (17-8, 10-6 NWC) beat Whitman College (16-9, 11-5 NWC) earlier in the evening, but the win gives the Bruins a fifth-place tie with Pacific University (16-9, 9-7 NWC) for the year while Willamette (4-21, 2-14 NWC) finishes in ninth. This was the final game in George Fox colors for Spencer Bolte, Sean Atkins, Seth Brent, Cole Larson and Jason Martin.
The Bruins opened the game with a 14-4 run, but the Bearcats snuck to within three before Grant stole the ball and scored a layup on the fast break with 13:04 remaining. He then stole the ball on the ensuing possession and sank a three-pointer before stealing the ball for the third time in as many possessions and hitting another layup to score seven points in 19 seconds, ultimately putting the Bruins up 21-11 at the 12:45 mark.
George Fox kept Willamette from getting any closer than 10 the rest of the half, and the margin was 47-34 Bruins at the interval. Bolte, who was coming off a career-high 37 points against the University of Puget Sound Friday night, led all scorers in the half with 13.
After the Bearcats cut the score down to eight and Atkins hit a jumper, Willamette head coach Kip Ioane was given a technical and Brent knocked down both free throws to give George Fox a 53-41 lead with 17:04 to play. Bolte later pulled off a strip and dunk to make it 71-54 in favor of the Bruins with nine minutes left. The Bruins, who rallied from 10 down with 2:35 left to win 96-93 at Willamette on Jan. 24, made sure nothing of the opposite happened tonight and maintained a lead of at least seven in the second half.
Four Bruins finished in double figures as Grant led with 22 points on 7-9 (77.8%) shooting, Bolte had 19, Atkins scored 13, and Brent added 13 with a career-high tying trio of threes. Larson grabbed a career and game-high eight boards in addition to his seven points.
Senior Avery Manu had a 19-point outing to lead the Bearcats.