WALLA WALLA, Wash. -- Down by 10 at intermission, the Whitman College women rallied four times to within a single point in the second half before George Fox dodged two bullets in the closing seconds to escape with a 54-53 victory Friday night in Sherwood Center.
In what was the Northwest Conference opener for both schools, George Fox failed to score in the last two-plus minutes of the game but still managed to hold off the Missionaries.
The Bruins, ranked third nationally in NCAA Division III, ran their early season record to 5-0.
Whitman, slipping to 1-4, has lost its four games by a total of 11 points.
After Megan Arnoldy's mid-range jumper staked George Fox to a 54-47 lead with 2:35 left, Whitman made its final charge.
Senior Jennifer Keyes launched a 3-pointer that popped in and out, but sophomore Tiffani Traver snared the rebound and was fouled by Hannah Munger, the 6-foot-5 center who anchors George Fox at both ends of the floor.
After Traver knocked down both free throws, Whitman forced a back-court turnover with junior Shiann Dreadfulwater picking off the steal. To make matters worse for the Bruins, Munger was whistled for her fifth and final foul while trying to recover the ball.
Dreadfulwater made her first free throw but missed the second, leaving Whitman on the short end of a 54-50 tally, but sophomore Meghan White came down with the offensive rebound to keep the ball in Missionary hands.
That Whitman possession paid off when senior Jenele Peterson got the ball to Keyes for a long 3-pointer that made it 54-53 with 1:30 left on the clock.
George Fox again turned the ball over, this time with Traver making the steal, but the Missionaries failed to capitalize on a good look inside and were forced to foul.
With 17 seconds left, Keisha Gordon missed both free throws for the Bruins to give Whitman another chance.
The Missionaries inbounded with 10 seconds but were unable to generate much of a shot as the final seconds ticked away. Peterson's long 3-pointer fell short at the buzzer.
Munger paced the Bruins with 17 points and seven rebounds. Gordon added 15 points, also collected seven boards and made five steals.
Traver was three of four from the floor, including two of three from the 3-point line, in scoring a team-high 12 points for Whitman. Peterson was five of six from the field en route to 11 points, five assists and four steals.
Heather Lovelace, a first-year 6-foot forward, came off the Whitman bench for 10 points. Senior Anna Forge pulled down seven rebounds for the Missionaries.
George Fox, which missed all nine of its 3-point tries, made just 29.2 per cent of its shots from the floor in the second half and finished at 36.7 percent for the night.
Whitman was a bit better from the field, hitting 37.7 percent for the game. The Missionaries were four of 12 from the 3-point stripe but were outscored by plenty at the free throw line.
The Bruins cashed in 18 of 26 freebies while Whitman was nine of 12 from the line. George Fox, which also got six rebounds from Carrie Myers, won the backboard battle 35-33.
Both sides had trouble handling the ball. Whitman was guilty of 21 turnovers, two more than the Bruins.
In the first half, George Fox broke free from an early 2-2 tie to lead 9-4 after six minutes of play. Inside baskets by Munger and Bree Rinehart-Young made it 19-10 Bruins with seven minutes left.
But Forge scored off a fast break and Peterson beat the shot-clock buzzer to slice Whitman's deficit to 21-15 with five minutes left. The Bruins then closed out the half to lead 29-19 at the break.
Whitman returns to Sherwood Center at 6 p.m. Saturday to host Lewis & Clark.
George Fox is in Spokane Saturday for at 6 p.m. game against Whitworth.
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CONTACT: Dave Holden
Sports Information Director
Whitman College, Walla Walla, Wash.
509 527-5902; email@example.com