Bruins Win NWC Title after Bearcats nearly Rally from 16-Point Deficit

Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS)
Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS)

By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications

NEWBERG, Ore. -- George Fox University appeared headed toward a comfortable victory at halftime of the 2018 Northwest Conference Tournament Championship on Saturday, Feb. 24 against Willamette University, as the Bruins led by 16 points at 31-15. The Bearcats had other ideas, and Willamette rallied to within two points at 52-50 with 2:29 left in the game.

The Bruins scored the final eight points to win 60-50 and claim the NWC Tournament title. George Fox also secured the NWC's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Willamette concluded its season with a 17-10 record, while George Fox improved to 24-3.

Willamette achieved its first winning season and first NWC Tournament berth since going 17-8 in 2000-01. Kylie Towry (Sr., G, Medford, OR/South Medford HS) set Willamette's career scoring record with 1,433 points, breaking the previous record of 1,309 points by Jenny Joseph from 1993-94 through 1996-97. Towry led the NWC in scoring with 17.4 points per game and was chosen First Team All-NWC. Britanny Kochenderfer (Jr., G, Klamath Falls, OR/Henley HS/Idaho State Univ.) received Second Team All-NWC honors and Head Coach Peg Swadener was selected NWC Women's Basketball Coach of the Year. The Bearcats went 12-4 in the NWC during the regular season.

On Saturday, Kochenderfer led the Bearcats with 14 points, while Towry provided 13 points, including a game-high three 3-point baskets. Celine Gregoire (Sr./Jr., P, Woodburn, OR/Woodburn Academy) contributed a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds to go along with two blocked shots.

Kaitlin Jamieson topped George Fox with 15 points. She also grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots. Emily Holder scored 11 points, Haylee Hutzler earned 10 points, and Hailey Hartney hauled down 12 boards.

The Bearcats and the Bruins were tied 11-11 following two free throws by Towry with 54 seconds left in the first quarter. A 3-pointer from Hutzler just seconds later broke the tie and helped George Fox take a 15-13 lead into the second quarter. Willamette trailed by just two points at 17-15 after Gregoire scored on a layup with 7:30 remaining in the half. The Bruins ended the second quarter with a 14-0 run that included points from six different players.

Willamette cut the margin to 37-25 with 6:14 to go in the third quarter on a jumper by Gregoire. The Bruins returned to a 16-point lead, and then the teams exchanged the next four baskets. A jumper by Kochenderfer at the 2:48 mark began a 6-0 run by the Bearcats to pull within 45-35 with 1:29 on the clock. GFU added a free throw by Jamieson to take a 46-35 advantage after three quarters.

Towry sank a 3-point shot to open the scoring in the fourth quarter. After Jamieson hit 1 of 2 free throws, the Bearcats tacked on a layup by Towry and a 3-pointer by Kochenderfer. GFU's lead was just 47-43 with 7:50 left. The Bruins earned the next two points on free throws by Jamieson, but WU cut the margin to 49-46 on a 3-pointer by Towry with 5:38 to play.

The next four points went to GFU for a 52-46 advantage. Willamette battled to reduce the margin once again, this time with two free throws by Farmer at the 4:03 mark and two more charity shots by Farmer with 2:29 left. Farmer's 4-for-4 effort reduced the Bruins' lead to 52-50.

Jamieson grabbed her own rebound and scored on a layup during the next possession for George Fox. Emily Spencer added two free throws with 1:53 on the clock, as GFU grabbed a 56-50 edge. Willamette was unable to pull closer, and the Bruins sank 4 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to clinch the win.

George Fox connected on 36.4% of its shots (20 of 55), including 2 for 9 from 3-point range. The Bruins were 18 of 28 (64.3%) at the foul line. Willamette shot just 17.2% in the first half (5 of 29), but improved to 58.3% (7 of 12) in the third quarter, and finished at 30.2% (16 of 53) for the game. WU made 6 of 25 three-point attempts (24.0%) and hit 12 of 17 free throws (70.6%).