Mar 13, 2015

Journey to the Tourney: How Sweet It Is

A Winning Tradition

  • NCAA D-III National Champions (2009)
  • Three NCAA "Final Four" appearances (2009, 2012, 2015)
  • Six NCAA "Elite 8" appearances (2005, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015)
  • Nine NCAA "Sweet 16" appearances (2000, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016)
  • 14 NCAA National Tournament appearances in 18 years (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • 12 Northwest Conference Championships (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018)
  • 25 straight winning seasons (1994-2018)
  • 14 Top 25 national rankings (2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Three NCAA Division III National Coaches of the Year
  • Six NCAA Division III Region Coaches of the Year
  • 11 Conference Coaches of the Year
  • 20 All-Americans
  • One Academic All-American
  • Three Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year Finalists (Justine Benner - 2015, Keisha Gordon - 2012, Katy Campbell - 2008)
  • One Ad Rutschman Small College Athlete of the Year Winner (Kristen Shielee - 2009)
  • One George Fox Pasero Team of the Year (2009)
  • One Slats Gill Sportsperson of the Year Award (Scott Rueck - 2009 finalist)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. --- The No. 3-ranked George Fox women's basketball team showed the true definition of grit and perseverance Friday evening, as the Bruins held on to beat the No. 24-ranked Comets of the University of Texas at Dallas, 77-73.

It was just the second time this season that the Bruins have allowed an opposing team to score more than 70 points, the last time coming against conference foe, Puget Sound, on Jan. 30 when the game ended with the same result, 77-73.

George Fox got off to its normal start in the first half, taking a quick 6-point lead at the 14:17 mark when Justine Benner made a fast break lay-up off a Jami Morris steal. Once the game started to settle down and both teams got a feel for each other, the Comets showed some patience against the Bruin zone forcing the first tie of the game at the 9:34 mark, 17-17.  

The score stayed within one possession for the next three minutes as each team was unwilling to give up an inch. After the three minute span of trading baskets back and forth, the Comets started to break away from the Bruins going on an 8-0 run to take a 7-point lead, 29-22. With just under three minutes to play in the first, the Bruins mounted a comeback with a couple of quick baskets to take back the lead at the 2:04 mark, 32-31.

The Bruins went into the break with a two point lead after Sammy Naluai made a tough nosed lay-up in the final seconds, 37-35.

The intensity continued in the second half, with the score tied for the fifth time after Micaela Gonzalez knocked down a jumper, 37-37. The eighth tie of the game came with 10:41 left on the game clock as Benner made a free throw at the stripe, 51-51. Both teams gave fans more then what the other asked for, as the next four minutes were filled with three more ties. It seemed as if both teams could trade baskets for the remainder of the game, keeping each fan more engaged as each possession started to mean more and more.

With 4:48 left and trailing by two, Nicole Blizzard, who all year has hit clutch shot after clutch shot, found herself open beyond the arc to drain one of the biggest shots of the night. Her three lifted the Bruins to a two point lead, 62-60, and gave the Bruins some huge momentum. The Comets would not go down without a fight, though, and were able to draw a foul and get to the free throw line a minute later recording the 12th tie of the game, 62-62. The Comets completed the pair on the line and took a one point lead with 3:35 left on the game clock.

George Fox gathered itself and remained calm in the storm, as Benner added two baskets to give the Bruins a four point edge, 69-65. Madi Hess made two free throws for the Comets to cut the deficit to two, but Blizzard was able to show her clutch shooting again, knocking down another huge three to erupt the Newberg community for a five point lead, 72-67.

The free throw game commenced soon after that, as the Comets were unable to crack the well rounded Bruins. The Comets did happen to get within one with 42 seconds left, but Codling made a pair to keep the Bruins up by three, and Dacia Heckendorf sealed the deal with a free throw of her own.

"UT-Dallas did an amazing job of handling our pressure tonight," said Morris. "We had to make a lot of adjustments throughout the game. Like we have done all season, we battled until the very end and came out on top."

The lead changed hands 20 times throughout the game and the score was tied 13 times. Speaking of the number 13, Codling finished the game with 13 points and 13 rebounds to record her 13th double-double of the season. She also added seven assists and a career-high seven blocks. Morris led the Bruins in points with 17, while Benner finished with 16. Blizzard recorded her second 11 point game of the season.

 "We're not satisfied," said Morris. "There are so many things we still need to improve going into tomorrow. I'm confident this team will come in prepared and focused."

The Bruins finished the game shooting 85.7 percent from the free throw line, which ties for the second best shooting clip on the season. George Fox improves to 30-0 on the season, while UTD will complete its season at 26-5. This is the winningest season in the program's 17-year history.

As the Bruins head to the Elite 8 they will face host school Calvin College (30-0) in an undefeated match-up tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. PDT.