PORTLAND, Ore. – After four consecutive Northwest Conference Women's Basketball Tournament titles, the streak came to an end for George Fox University Thursday night here at the Pamplin Sports Center as the eighth-ranked Lewis & Clark College Pioneers advanced to the championship game with a 75-59 victory over the Bruins.
Seeded No. 4 seed in the tournament after losing a third-place tiebreaker to Whitworth University, the Bruins saw their season end with a 19-7 record which, in all likelihood, will snap their string of six straight appearances in the NCAA Division III National Tournament. It also marked the final game in the incredible saga of All-American center Hannah Munger, who finished her career third on the Bruins' all-time lists in points (1,559) and rebounds (987) and first in blocked shots (369), the last number 15th in D-III history.
Lewis & Clark, the No. 1 seed and now 24-2, will host the championship game Saturday at 7:00 p.m. The Pios' opponent with be the Whitworth Pirates (20-6), who edged the No. 2 seed Whitman College Missionaries (21-5) 55-54 in Walla Walla, Wash. Saturday's winner earns the league's automatic berth in the national tournament.
The early part of the game saw both teams go on long scoring streaks. George Fox held the home team scoreless for three-and-a-half minutes while racing out to a 9-0 lead on a jumper by Munger, a three-pointer by Jami Roos, and a putback and a jumper by Megan Arnoldy. Kristina Williams finally put the Pios on the board with a short jumper in the lane, but Megan Hays scored on a rebound to make it 11-2 Bruins with 14:35 left in the half.
It was the Bruins' turn to go cold then as Lewis & Clark ripped off 18 unanswered points over the next six minutes, spreading the scoring around among seven different players. When Katie Anderson hit a pair of free throws with 9:04 to go, the Pios held a 20-11 lead.
Arnoldy halted the run with a rebound basket at the 8:40 mark, and the teams essentially swapped points over the next five minutes as the L&C lead wavered between five and nine points. A backdoor layup by Justine Benner brought the Bruins within seven at 30-23 with 3:38 to go, but the Pios scored the last seven points of the half on a length-of-the-court driving basket and a three by Anderson around a jumper by Kathlene Howe to take a 37-23 halftime lead.
While the field goal shooting in the first half was fairly even – George Fox shot .417 (10-24), L&C .433 (13-30) – the Bruins were victimized by 14 turnovers to five for the Pios and poor free-throw shooting. The Bruins made only 2-of-7 from the line while the Pios were 8-of-9.
The Pios opened the second half with threes by Casey Zinn and Anderson and two free throws by Williams, giving them 15 points in a row and a 45-23 lead. The Bruins had one final run in them, however, reeling off 12 unanswered points over a three-minute span to pull within 10 at 45-35 with 11:18 to play. Nicole Blizzard and Samantha Naluai had threes and Hayley Cusick, McKenzie Wolfe and Arnoldy each had baskets in the run.
Anderson drained a trey at 10:52 to end the Bruins' streak, igniting an 11-0 run that gave the Pios a 56-35 lead with 8:08 remaining and effectively sealing the win. Anderson added two more fast-break layups in the streak. Roos hit two free throws with 7:40 left to make it 56-37, but the Pios hit 14-of-18 from the free throw line in the final seven minutes to stay comfortably in front. Ally McConnell's free throw with two seconds left for the final score was as close as the Bruins could get.
The Bruins finished with a costly 25 turnovers to only nine for the Pios, and made 8-of-15 (.533) from the charity stripe to 26-of-33 (.788) for the home team. In field goals, George Fox made 22-of-57 (.386), Lewis & Clark 21-of-55 (.382). The Bruins won the battle of the backboards 45-33.
Arnoldy and Roos led the Bruins with 10 points apiece, and Naluai added a career-high nine, all on threes. Arnoldy posted her fourth double-double of the season and sixth of her career by adding a game-high 11 rebounds. Cusick had three steals and three assists, and Benner and Arnoldy also had three assists each. Munger blocked five shots.
Anderson scored a game-high 20 points for the Pios, while Williams added 14 and Howe and Sara Villanueva had 12 each. Howe was the top rebounder with seven, Villanueva handed out eight assists, and Williams had five of the Pios' 17 steals.