DIII basketball — Bruins suffer a demoralizing 74-55 loss to Whitworth, but will get another shot at the Pirates in the first round of the NCAA tourney

Having split the regular season series, it wasn’t shocking that Whitworth upset host George Fox Feb. 27 in a Northwest Conference semifinal at Miller Gym.

The stunning part was how handily the No. 3-seeded Pirates dominated the second half, hitting six of eight three-point attempts, but were helped by a miserable shooting performance on the part of the No. 2-seeded Bruins en route to a resounding 74-55 SETH GORDON - Heartbroken - Members of the George Fox women's basketball team take in the final moments of their shocking 74-55 loss to visiting Whitworth in the Northwest Conference semifinal Thursday at Miller Gym.

“I feel like we didn’t execute the way we needed to in a game like this,” head coach Michael Meek said. “Whitworth played a good game, too, and I don’t want to take that away from them.”

It was an emotional scene on the bench in the final minutes of the game and in the hallway afterwards, not just from the disappointment of the loss, but from the possibility that the players’ time together had just come to an end.

That won’t be the case, however, as George Fox was awarded an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament Monday. Interestingly, the Bruins will get another crack at the Pirates, as the two teams will square off for the fourth time this season in a first round contest at 5 p.m. Friday at Whitman.

“I know we’re a team that’s capable of doing well in the tournament if we play at the level we’re capable of playing at,” Meek said.

After a defensive struggle left GFU up 26-24 at the break, the Pirates quickly found a rhythm offensively, hitting two triples in the first 2:35 of the final frame, the second giving them a 30-28 lead they would never relinquish.

Although the visitors looked to be the stronger side, it was just a one-point game at 39-38 with 9:44 to play, but Whitworth seized control by going on a 13-0 run as the Bruins went scoreless for five minutes.

George Fox was unable to get the deficit under 10 points from that point on and the Pirates scored their last 19 points at the line, hitting all but one of their attempts.

The Bruins shot a paltry 35.1 percent for the game and while Whitworth finished at just 37.5 percent, their 52.2-percent performance from the field in the second half was significant in determining the outcome.

K.C. McConnell scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Pirates, with Nicole Blizzard scoring 12 for GFU, which also got 10 points apiece from Justine Benner, Megan Arnoldy and Jami Roos.

“We allowed shooters to get open too much and didn’t get it inside where our advantage is,” Meek said. “As a coaching staff, we’ve got to have our team more prepared for a game like this than they were.”

Whitworth (20-7) went on to beat regular season champ and No. 1-ranked Whitman 68-65 in the NWC title game Saturday in Walla Walla, Wash., to secure their second consecutive NWC tournament crown.

The Missionaries (26-1), however, will host the first two rounds of the tournament, including their opening-round game against Chapman.

For the Bruins (22-4), getting another shot at Whitworth right away might allow them to turn the disappointment of the recent loss into fuel for a tournament run.

“I hope so,” Arnoldy said. “It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions for sure, but I think this stings enough that it could do that.”

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