McMINNVILLE, Ore. – Linfield had the advantage for the final 15 minutes of the game, but against a dangerous George Fox squad, it took a contested floater in the lane from Ryan Cali (Jr., San Jose, Calif.) and a key defensive stop for the Wildcats to earn their first Northwest Conference victory of the year, 74-72, Tuesday night inside a crowded Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
The win gave first-year head coach Shanan Rosenberg his first conference victory, and snapped a program-record 13-game losing streak.
After his team battled back from a 10-point deficit, Bruins leading scorer Sean Atkins scored a game-tying layup with 51 seconds remaining in the game. On the opposite end of the court, Linfield struggled to find an open shot against a desperate George Fox defense. But with the shot clock winding down, Cali drove the lane and hit a tough runner to give the ‘Cats a two-point advantage with 19.2 seconds on the clock.
Jason Martin missed two free throws, but the Bruins got one more chance off a Wildcat miscue from the charity stripe. Spencer Bolte drove hard to the right block and got a great look at the basket, but as his shot rolled off the rim, the buzzer sounded and the Linfield bench erupted in celebration of its first win in its last 14 tries.
Ryan Potter (Fr., Molalla, Ore.) pumped in a career-high 27 points on 10-for-15 shooting, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range. Tanner Brill (Fr., Longview, Wash.) added 13 points and Chris Dirks (Jr., Hood River, Ore.) contributed 10 more for the Wildcats, who began the second half of the conference season on a winning note.
A.J. Grant paced the Bruins with 21 points, while Bolte finished with 18 points, including a perfect 7-for-7 effort from the free throw line.
George Fox held the advantage at the break, 41-37, after a topsy-turvy first half that produced eight ties and 11 lead changes. The Bruins sank most of what they put up, shooting 59.1 percent (13-for-22) from the floor, including 60 percent (6-for-10) from downtown and a perfect 100 percent (9-for-9) from the charity stripe.
Cali's 3-pointer brought the ‘Cats to within one just 24 seconds into the second stanza, and another long-range bucket from Potter gave Linfield a two-point lead. The teams traded buckets for the next several minutes, but after Grant's layup at the 15:51 mark of the half, Linfield scored the next nine points – including two treys from Brill – to claim a 54-48 advantage.
A layup from Adam Myren (Jr., Carmichael, Calif.) with 10:21 to play pushed the spread to 10 points, 61-51, and George Fox stayed at least two possessions behind until Cole Larson made good on 1-of-2 free throws with 3:48 to go.
Linfield (3-15, 1-8 NWC) scored just four more points the rest of the way, but got the defensive stops it needed to avenge an 84-69 loss to the Bruins (12-6, 5-4 NWC) that opened the Northwest Conference season. The Wildcats shot the ball the best they have all year, knocking down 55.8 percent of their attempts from the field, including 47.4 percent of their tries from beyond the arc.
‘CAT SCRATCH: Linfield's 74 points were a season high…Potter's 27 points were the most by any Wildcat this season…the freshman guard topped his previous career high of 24 points, achieved against Northwest Christian…Linfield defeated its county rival for the first time since Feb. 27, 2012…the ‘Cats got their first home victory over the Bruins since the 2009-10 season…Linfield snapped a 10-game conference losing streak, dating back to last season.
UP NEXT: Linfield looks to make it back-to-back wins when it plays host to Puget Sound Friday night at home. The Wildcats and Loggers tip off at 8 p.m.
Hits five 3-pointers in win
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