Tigers rally in the second half, but the Bruins close on 7-3 run to score the early-season win

After the George Fox women's basketball team downed Southwestern 68-57 in the season opener Friday night despite a lackluster second-half performance, coach Michael Meek wanted to see more from his young squad. SETH GORDON - Haylee Hutzler reaches for a rebound during George Fox's 68-57 win over Southwestern (Texas) in the season opener Friday night at Miller Gymnasium.

Meek couldn't have asked for a better test Saturday night than a visit from No. 7 Trinity, a team that bested the Bruins in overtime last season before making a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.

George Fox, which is ranked No. 22 in the WBCA poll but unranked in the poll, flashed its enormous potential by jumping out to a 38-27 halftime lead.

But Meek was well aware of his team's talent, so he was more interested in the Bruins' mettle, which was challenged when the Tigers stormed back in the second half and eventually took the lead.

From that point forward, George Fox had an answer for Trinity at just about every turn, including a pair of jump shots down the stretch by sophomore point guard Emily Spencer that lifted the Bruins to the 65-61 upset.

"The great thing that I really appreciate is that when they ground their way back into it and took the lead late, a lot of teams have a hard time with that adversity, but I really feel like our kids, when everything seemed to be going the wrong way were able to pull things together and were able to come back and pull it out," Meek said. "That's not an easy thing to do when a team grabs momentum from you. In that respect, it was a really good win."

The Bruins also staked a big first-half lead Friday night against Southwestern, hitting seven three-pointers in the opening 20 minutes to pull ahead 43-29.

The offense nearly evaporated in the second half, as GFU shot just 23 percent in the third quarter and 30 percent in the fourth to allow the Pirates (1-1) to claw their way back into the game.

Haley Strowbridge came to the Bruin's rescue, though, hitting a pair of three-pointers in the final five minutes to keep Southwestern at bay. The sophomore wing finished with 12 points, second on the team to Tavin Heading's 15.

"What I would like to see more out of this group is that we need to be able to find ways to win games in which we don't necessarily shoot super well," Meek said. "The last few years we've really counted a lot on our shooting, which I think will get back up there as we get comfortable, but haven't relied as much on being able to win games defensively."

Senior post Kaitlin Jamieson struggled to get her shots to fall, going 0 for 7, and got in foul trouble versus Southwestern, but powered the Bruins versus Trinity, especially in the opening half. That included a 12-point outburst in the first quarter and 16 total points in the first 20 minutes.

"Kaitlin's a great player when she comes out with a really determined attitude and I feel like she was really focused this last game," Meek said. "When she's in that type of mindset she's really difficult for teams to deal with because she brings so many different things."

That certainly showed in the box score, as Jamieson finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, three blocks and three assists.

That helped to offset a 27-point performance from Trinity guard Micah Weaver, but the George Fox bench also outscored their Tiger counterparts 18-5.

Trinity also plays a full-court pressure defense and benefitted from 33 Bruin turnovers, though Meek said he felt far too many of those were simply unforced errors.

The Tigers (1-1) closed the gap to five points at 47-42 entering the fourth quarter and went on an 8-0 run to take a 50-49 lead with 4:48 to play.

The two teams found themselves tied 58-58 with 1:48 to play, but Jamieson sank a pair of free throws and Strowbridge got a steal from Weaver, with Spencer draining a jumper with 39 seconds left to put the home side up by four.

Trinity missed their next two shots, but got the offensive rebound each time, allowing Julia Ackerman to hit a triple to make it 62-61 with 13 seconds to play.

Hailey Hartney pushed the lead back to three with a pair of free throws and Kylin Collma iced the result with two more after Weaver misfired on a three-pointer at the other end.

Meek noted that it has been rare for a ranked non-conference team to visit Newberg during the regular season, but the challenge will get even tougher this weekend as George Fox, now ranked No. 12, will travel to play NCAA tournament regular Bethel Saturday and No. 7 St. Thomas (Minn.).

"It was great to have a ranked team like that come into our home court," Meek said. "I really feel like we've got a lot of room to grow. This group has just been really fun to work with."