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Whitworth bounces GFU from tourney

Once again the Pirates pull away late to defeat the Bruins for the second time in a week and the third time this season


WALLA WALLA, Wash. — In a near mirror image of their last meeting in the Northwest Conference tournament semifinals, Whitworth pulled away in the game’s final five minutes to knock off George Fox 71-55 Friday, only this time the Bruins’ season is over as the meeting came in the first round of the NCAA Division III national tournament.

It was the Pirates’ third consecutive victory over GFU this season and second in the past two weeks, as the NCAA matched the two teams from the same conference in the opening round for the first time in over a decade.

Even stranger was the fact that both teams were ranked, with Whitworth entering the game No. 24 and George Fox No. 14. The Pirates then fell Saturday to NWC regular-season champion Whitman 73-67. by: FILE PHOTO - Whitworth began its domination of George Fox in the Northwest Conference tournament semifinals (above) and continued it with a 71-55 win Friday in the first round of the DIII national tournament.

“Whitworth is a very good team that was playing incredibly well at the end of the season, so I have to give them credit for where they’re at,” GFU head coach Michael Meek said. “But I also credit a lot of it to where our league is at. Our league is in a great position right now and it’s unfortunate that more teams from our league can’t move on and we’re having to play each other so early.”

The first half of the game was low-scoring to start as the Bruins went ahead for the first time at 18-17 with 5:43 remaining, but entered the break trailing 28-26.

Senior Megan Arnoldy kicked off the second half by nailing a jump shot to knot the score, but Whitworth answered with seven consecutive points to go up 35-28 and led for the rest of the game.

The game was still within reach at 51-46 with 4:36 left to play, but following a script they used in their previous meeting, the Pirates put together a 20-5 streak to seal the victory, with 13 of those points coming at the free throw line in the final 2:23.

“It was a very competitive game until about the five-minute mark and they hit a couple of buckets at a point that stretched it to 10 late in the game and put us in a situation where we had to foul them,” Meek said. “Obviously, the game was much more competitive than the score indicates.”

For the second consecutive meeting, Whitworth was able to thwart George Fox’s height advantage on the interior, forcing the Bruins to rely more on attacking the basket off the dribble, but Meek’s team struggled with 21 turnovers while forcing six from the Pirates.

GFU shot a respectable 45.8 percent for the game, but went just 3-for-12 from the three-point line, while the Pirates once again got hot from deep in the second half, hitting five of their seven triples in the final 20 minutes.

“The biggest thing is they are just so physical with our post player and were able to push them out so far that, more or less, they were becoming perimeter-type players,” Meek said.

Senior Haley Cusick, who, along with Arnoldy, McKenzie Wolfe and Kylee Parker, saw her Bruin career end with the loss, scored a team-high 13 points. Jami Roos added 12 for George Fox, which was torched for 27 points by Kayla Johnson.

“Between them, they made the national tournament three of four years, which is in itself a rarity, but also had a chance to play in the Elite 8 and also in the national championship game,” Meek said of his seniors. “Not too many kids can say they’ve had an opportunity to do all those things.”



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