McMINNVILLE, Ore. – In a game that featured 13 lead changes and six ties, the George Fox Bruins capitalized on a late surge to pull away from the upset-minded Linfield Wildcats Friday night in Northwest Conference basketball action.
The defending NWC champion Bruins inched closer to claiming at least a share of the NWC crown, topping their county rivals 60-54 before a charged audience at Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
The title race, which also includes contenders Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark, will be decided Saturday pending the outcomes of games on the regular-season’s final night.
George Fox outscored Linfield 7-0 over the final 4:02 to squash the Wildcats’ hopes of breaking a seven-game series losing streak.
Linfield all-star Gretchen Owens scored a game-high 21 points and shared top rebounding honors with eight caroms, but it wasn’t enough for Linfield (12-11, 7-8 NWC). The Wildcats, winners of only six games last season, can clinch a winning season with a victory Saturday night at Pacific Lutheran.
George Fox’s standout center, Hannah Munger, collected 12 points and six rebounds to spur the Bruins to victory. Munger was the only Bruin to reach double figures in scoring. Hayley Cusick scored seven of her nine points after intermission and Keisha Gordon added another nine points to go with eight rebounds.
Linfield outplayed George Fox in the first half, taking a 32-31 lead into the intermission. The Wildcats shot .458 to the Bruins’ .313 and outrebounded the visitors 17-16, but the play of the GFU reserves kept the game tight throughout. The Bruins bench accounted for 15 points, including six from Carly Towne and four by Carrie Myers.
Owens scored 13 points during the opening 20 minutes, hitting 5-of-9 shots from the field. The Wildcats built a 14-8 lead after 6½ minutes, only to watch as the Bruins go on a 14-4 run of their own to take a 22-18 advantage. Linfield eventually regained the lead on a jumper by Kaely Maltman (Sr., Sandy, Ore.).
After Owens canned a 3-pointer to start the second half, the Bruins caught fire, outscoring the ‘Cats 16-3 over the first 5:50. Trailing by nine, Linfield maintained its poise, eventually taking a 50-49 lead on another 3-pointer by Owens.
Led by Munger’s four points in the final four minutes, George Fox finished with a flurry. Linfield went without a point in the closing minutes, going 0-for-4 from the field.
Before tipoff, Linfield’s lone senior, Stephanie Fennimore, was honored during a special “Senior Night” recognition.
NEXT: Linfield wraps up the season Saturday night against the PLU Lutes at Olson Auditorium.
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