Walla Walla, Wash. -- The Missionaries advanced to the Northwest Conference Finals for the second time in the last three seasons with a 90 - 78 victory over No. 3 seed George Fox tonight at Sherwood Athletic Center, despite the Bruins shooting 61.5 % from the field. The win completes a perfect record at home for the Missionaries against conference foes (9 - 0), marking their tenth win in their last eleven games, and their eighth consecutive victory. Whitman now stands at 19 - 7 on the season. With the loss, George Fox finishes at 15 - 11.
Ben Eisenhardt, Jr.
The "W" for the Missionaries sets up a rematch with No. 8 Whitworth in the conference finals Saturday night at 7 pm in Spokane. The last time the two teams met, the Missionaries ended the Pirates 20-game winning streak with a 93 - 90, overtime win in Walla Walla.
The matchup was made possible by a team effort that forced 24 Bruin turnovers while the Missionaries only committed 7. "We had a lot of hustle plays", said head coach Eric Bridgeland. "Drew Raher and Dom (Dominick Lippi, Fr., Alameda, CA) poked one free and we layed it in. Those plays are really big in this kind of game because it was not a 12-point game. It was a 4 to 6-point game and those plays make a difference."
George Fox got a game-high 25 from Sean Atkins (10 - 16) but only one bucket was from beyond the arc. While the Bruins were hitting over 60 % of their shots, they only fired up 52, compared to Whitman's 70, and the Missionaries hit 10 three-pointers to the Bruins 5.
Both teams shot "lights out" from the free throw line, the Missionaries converting 16 of 19, George Fox 9 of 11.
The Missionaries after the win applaud the fans
The Bruins jumped out to a 13 - 8 lead with less than three minutes gone in the first half on a Seth Brent three-ball, but the Whits battled back and took the lead 17 - 15, for the first time in the game, when Drew Raher (Sr., San Francisco, CA) drilled a three from the corner at the 14:35 mark. The Missionaries grew the lead to 12 on a trey from Peter Clark (Sr., Flagstaff, AZ) midway through the first stanza. The Bruins drew closer before the teams entered the break with Whitman holding a 48 - 40 advantage.
With eight minutes gone in the second stanza, George Fox made a run and tied the game at 62 - all on a three-point play by Atkins. On the Bruins next offensive trip, a turnover led to a Josh Duckworth (Jr., Los Angeles, CA) breakaway dunk and the beginning of a 19 to 6 run over the next 6:32 that resulted in a 13-point Whitman lead 81 - 68. "We knew George Fox would make a run", said Bridgeland. "We just had to answer the run. So, we just told our players, we just got hit, let's hit back. It's time for us to make a run"
George Fox reduced the margin to seven with 1:50 remaining, 85 - 78, but the Whits would score the last five points to produce the final score.
Duckworth led Whitman in scoring with 17, to go along with 4 assists and 3 steals. Matt Mounier (So., Encino, CA) and Ben Eisenhardt (Jr., Bainbridge Island, WA) tossed in 16 apiece -- Mounier hit three consecutive treys early to keep the Whits in the ballgame -- and Raher tallied 11 and Ryan Gilkey (Jr., Woodinville, WA) 10.
Anthony Sanchez finished with 17 and Brent had 14 for George Fox.
Whitman will be sending a fan bus up to Spokane. Fans can contact Victoria Johnson at the Athletics Department to reserve a spot. The service is "free of charge."
Whitman Sports Information Director