McMINNVILLE, Ore. – One of these nights, Linfield is finally going to complete its women's basketball revival and score an upset over a traditional Northwest Conference powerhouse. Until then, the Wildcats must continue to settle for moral victories, the latest a 64-57 loss to seventh-ranked George Fox Tuesday evening inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Leading by a slim three-point margin with 33 seconds remaining, the Bruins nabbed three game-saving offensive rebounds and knocked down four free throws to earn their third consecutive NWC victory since suffering a loss to then fourth-ranked Whitman.
After Grace McMillan nailed a tough jumper in the key to bring the Wildcats within a single possession with 1:03 remaining, Hayley Cusick missed a jumper that would have put the game away. The dagger instead came in the form of Lauren Codling's offensive rebound.
Cusick was then fouled and missed both attempts, giving the Wildcats a momentary glimpse of hope before Cusick corralled her own second miss. Jami Roos hit the two ensuing free throws and Megan Arnoldy knocked down two more with nine seconds to go as the Bruins completed the comeback from as many as 10 points down.
On the night, George Fox dominated the glass 52-35, including a whopping 24 offensive boards. That second-chance effort helped the Bruins overcome a poor shooting night; the visitors hit just 33.3 percent (22-for-65) from the floor, including a 5-for-22 performance from beyond the arc. Roos and Jordyn Peacock shared team-high honors with 12 points, while Nicole Blizzard and Arnoldy added 11 and 10 more, respectively.
Kaely Maltman led all players with 13 points. The senior also brought down seven rebounds and dished out a game-high six assists. McMillan finished with 10 points as Linfield's only other double-digit scorer.
The Wildcats led for all but 2:13 in the first half, which featured seven ties. Linfield came out on the attack, scoring the first five points of the game as part of a 7-2 run, highlighted by a Quincey Gibson (Sr., Issaquah, Wash.) 3-pointer and Maltman's full-court, press-breaking layup down the right side.
The Wildcats maintained their lead until Roos knotted action at 12 points apiece with her make from beyond the arc with 11:11 on the clock. After George Fox tied the score twice more, the Bruins' second trey of the game – this one from Blizzard – gave the visitors their first lead of the night, 19-16. However, back-to-back layups from Katelyn Henson gave the advantage back to the ‘Cats, who stayed ahead for the rest of the half.
Early in the second half, back-to-back layups from Arnoldy and Peacock – the latter a Division I transfer – gave the Bruins a 33-31 lead with 16:34 to play. A few possessions later, McMillan drove the length of the court and finished on the left side for the 10th tie of the game, 34-34. That sparked a 10-0 run for Linfield, which included two three-pointers from Taylor Solomon.
Two Peacock free throws got the Bruins going again, but Linfield hung on for the moment. Maltman picked up her fourth foul, however, and though the Bruins targeted her on the defensive end of the court, the senior drew an offensive foul on Dacia Heckendorf before escaping to the bench with 9:03 remaining in the game.
With Maltman on the bench, George Fox slowly chipped at the lead and continued to pound the glass. With 6:31 to play, Arnoldy missed the second of two attempts at the free throw line, but yet another Bruin offensive board led to Blizzard's three, which gave the visitors a lead, 51-50, it never surrendered. Blizzard cashed in on a layup on George Fox's next possession, and the defense forced a Wildcat turnover on the ensuing inbounds for a six-point advantage, 58-52, George Fox's largest of the game thus far.
Linfield twice cut the deficit to three points, once on a Maltman layup and once on McMillan's drive, but could not get the rebounds needed to retake the lead.
With the win, the Bruins improved to 17-1 on the year, including 8-1 against conference opponents. George Fox also earned the season sweep over Linfield, though this one by a decidedly smaller margin than an 86-36 homecourt victory back in December. The Wildcats fell to 6-12 overall, including 2-7 in NWC action.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Maltman was honored at halftime of the men's game for becoming just the third player in Wildcat women's basketball history to total more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds…to date, the senior has scored 1,152 points and brought down 589 rebounds…George Fox has defeated Linfield on 13 straight occasions since the Wildcats swept their country rivals during the 2006-07 season…Linfield has surrendered 15 or more offensive rebounds in seven consecutive games.
UP NEXT: Linfield concludes its three-game homestand with a Friday night matchup against Puget Sound. Tipoff inside Ted Wilson Gymnasium is set for 6 p.m.