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GEORGE FOX 76, AMHERST 69: Munger’s Record Game Leads Bruins to NCAA Title Game
HOLLAND, Mich. - Led by Hannah Munger’s 36 points, a record for Hope College’s DeVos Fieldhouse, the George Fox University Bruins conquered the Amherst College Lord Jeffs 76-69 in a battle of unbeaten teams here Friday evening to advance to the championship game of the 2011-12 NCAA Division III Women’s Basketball National Tournament.
George Fox (32-0), ranked No. 3 in the nation, will play Illinois Wesleyan University (27-5), which defeated the University of St. Thomas 67-53, in the title game Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern time (4:00 p.m. Pacific). It will be the second national final for the Bruins, who won it all here in 2009 with a 32-0 record in a 60-53 win over Washington University-St. Louis. The consolation game between Amherst (31-1), which was the defending national champion and No. 1-ranked team in the country, and St. Thomas (30-2) will be at 4:00 p.m. Eastern (1:00 p.m. Pacific).
Munger poured in 36 points, the third-highest total in Bruin history and a George Fox tournament record, by hitting 11-of-16 from the field and 14-of-16 on free throws, including her first 14 in a row, along with a game-high 13 rebounds.
“That was definitely the best individual performance against us in the five years I have been at Amherst,” admitted Lord Jeffs’ coach G.P. Gromacki. “She has tremendous moves inside and we thought if she hit her usual free throw percentage, we might slow her down, but she has a nice stroke and hit all the big shots when they needed it.”
Munger, at 6-5, is also one of the top shot blockers in the game, but had none against Amherst as the Lord Jeffs avioded her by taking outside jumpers and three-pointers - and they were hitting them. Amherst got on the board first on a jumper by Caroline Stedman before Hayley Cusick answered with a layup for the Bruins. The Lord Jeffs regained the lead on a three-pointer by Lem Atanga McCormick, but the Bruins responded with a layup by Keisha Gordon and two Munger free throws to take their first lead of 6-5 four minutes in.
Another three by Atanga McCormick and two free throws by Munger left the score 8-8 with 15:06 left, but Stedman fueled a 10-2 Amherst run with three free throws and a trey to give the Lord Jeffs their largest lead of 18-10 with 13:22 left. A layup by Munger ended the Amherst streak and started the Bruins on a 14-6 comeback run that tied the game 24-24 on a Megan Arnoldy back-door layup with 6:53 left.
Kim Fiorentino hit a three to give Amherst back the lead, but Gordon tied it with a three that started an 8-0 George Fox outburst. A jumper by Arianna Mohsenian, a Gordon drive, and a Jami Roos free throw gave the Bruins a 32-27 lead with four minutes left in the half.
With Munger out of the game for the last eight minutes of the half with two fouls, Amherst began to go inside. After a three by Marcia Voigt, Bridget Crowley hit a jumper in the lane and Jackie Renner scored on a reverse layup to give the Lord Jeffs a 35-34 lead with a minute to go. A steal and layup by Voigt made it 37-34, but Arnoldy cut the lead to one with a layup. Stedman missed two free throws with eight seconds left that could have increased the Amherst lead to three, but the Lord Jeffs had to settle for 37-36 halftime lead.
George Fox shot .500 (14-28) from the floor in the first half to .480 (12-25) for Amherst, but the Lord Jeffs’ three-point shooting was clearly the difference as they hit .500 (6-12) to only .143 (1-7) for the Bruins from long distance. Munger led all scorers at the break with 16 points, while Stedman had 10 to pace Amherst.
With Munger hitting another basket and two free throws, the Bruins scored the first seven points of the second half and held the Lord Jeffs scoreless for four-and-a-half minutes as they built a 43-37 lead. Fiorentino broke the string with two free throws, and later made a steal and a layup to tie it 47-47 with 13:13 left. Over the next 10 minutes, there were six lead changes and three more ties, the last when Voigt nailed a three from the left corner to knot it 64-64 with 3:32 left.
Arnoldy got free inside for a layup that broke the tie with 3:05 left, then added two free throws before Gordon drove the baseline to score for a 70-64 Bruins lead with 1:24 left. The Lord Jeffs resorted to fouling the rest of the way and the strategy might have worked as the Bruins missed seven of eight free throw attempts in the span of 58 seconds that could have sealed the win. However, the Lord Jeffs missed five of their last seven shots, two free throws, and made a turnover before the Bruins got a free throw by Gordon and two by Roos in the last 11 seconds to secure the victory.
“This game was everything we expected it to be,” said Bruins’ coach Michael Meek. “It was two great teams going at it, neither one giving an inch. My hat’s off to Amherst; they never gave up. I think the strength of our own conference prepared us for games like this, and we responded. Hannah had a great game, to be sure, but we had some others who stepped up with key plays at the right time, and I could not be prouder of how we played.”
In addition to Munger’s huge game, which was her 15th double-double of the season, fourth in a row in the post-season, and 40th of her career, Arnoldy scored 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting and Gordon sank 5-of-7 shots en route to 12 points. Gordon, the West Region Player of the Year, narrowly missed a double-double with nine rebounds and made five steals, while Mohsenian handed out four assists.
Stedman, the Northeast Region Player of the Year, scored a team-high 22 points for the Lord Jeffs, but had to shoot 8-of-22 to do it. Voigt added 15, hitting three threes, as did Stedman and Atanga McCormick. Voight had a team-leading six rebounds and four assists, and Fiorentino also passed out four assists. Fiorentino, Stedman, and Atanga McCormick had three steals each.
George Fox finished with a .481 shooting percentage (25-52) to .375 (24-64) for Amherst, though the Lord Jeffs connected on 10-of-25 threes (.400) to stay in the game to only 1-of-8 (.125) for the Bruins. The Bruins’ final free throw mark was .658 (25-38) to .550 (11-20) for the Lord Jeffs. George Fox owned the boards 43-34.