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GFU splits, but gains fourth spot


A Bruin rally falls short in a 74-72 loss at Linfield, but defense lifts George Fox past Pacific Lutheran 78-60 on Saturday

George Fox broke even for the week, suffering a 74-72 upset at the hands of Linfield and clamping down for a 78-60 win over Pacific Lutheran, but with a lot of movement across the league, moved up into fourth place in the Northwest Conference.

The Wildcats entered the Jan. 28 contest winless in NWC play, but shot a blistering 55.8 percent from the floor for the game, including a 9-for-19 performance on three-pointers.

Both teams shot more than 50 percent in the first half, with Linfield emerging with a 41-37 advantage at halftime. by: SETH GORDON - Key performance - Sean Atkins played a key role in the Bruins' win Saturday night versus PLU, scoring 23 points.

The Wildcats built a 10-point cushion midway through the second half, but Sean Atkins scored a layup with 51 seconds remaining to cap a George Fox rally and tie the game 72-72.

Ryan Cali drove for what proved to be the winning basket with 19 seconds left. The Bruins had a chance to tie when Jason Martin was fouled with 12 seconds left. The senior misfired on both, but GFU fouled quickly and Chris Dirks gave the visitors one more chance after missing the front end of a one-and-one with nine seconds left.

Spencer Bolte drove for the game-tying basket, but his shot bounced on the rim twice before falling away as the horn sounded.

A.J. Grant scored a team-high 21 points to go along with three steals and three assists in the loss, which also saw Bolte finish with 18.

“You can’t take anything away from them,” Atkins said of the Wildcats. “They made some tough shots at the end, especially the last one. He might have had two or three shots the whole game, but it went in. Then we had two shots roll off the rim at the end. There’s not much you can do about that.”

Atkins played a key role in the Saturday night victory over PLU, scoring 23 points, but it was the Bruins’ defense that secured the much-needed win.

After an evenly-played first half, Bolte scored six quick points to give George Fox a 47-37 lead and the Lutes never got closer than five points the rest of the way.

PLU scored with 6:35 remaining to make it 66-60, but was held scoreless for the remainder of the game.

At the same time, the Bruins turned up the pressure by sinking baskets at the other end, beginning with a triple by Jonny Howard.

“It’s always nice to hold the other team without a field goal for the last six minutes,” Atkins said. “That’s huge for us.”

Atkins went 12-for-13 from the free throw line, with Grant and Bolte adding 17 points apiece.

“It was one of our most complete games,” Atkins said. “That’s a tough team to play against because they slow it down so much and they can lull you to sleep. Especially with how we played at PLU, that was probably our worst game of the year, so to beat them like this is huge.”

The Bruins (13-6, 6-4 NWC) sit alone in fourth place, one game ahead of Lewis & Clark and one game behind third-place Puget Sound. George Fox will travel to sixth-place Pacific Friday before hosting the Pioneers Saturday.