Bruins will take on Montclair State in the first round of the Division III tournament in Virginia

The George Fox University women's basketball team claimed the Northwest Conference crown Saturday, dispatching the No. 7 Whitman Blues 57-55 in a thriller. The Bruins earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament in the process.

GFU got off to a blistering start on offense with a 9-0 run in the first eight minutes of the game, but Whitman chipped away at the lead as the game progressed, eventually taking a one-point lead into the fourth quarter.

A back-and-forth final frame included two consecutive baskets to end the game from Haley Strowbridge, who led the Bruins with 20 points on the night. Her final shot was the game-winner and Whitman was unable to cash in a deep three at the buzzer that would've won it.

GFU shot just 38.6 percent on the night, but held Whitman to 40 percent shooting and put together a strong performance to make up for previous losses to the top-ranked team in the NWC.

Now, the Bruins can call themselves champions of the conference once again and move on to NCAAs as winners of four consecutive games – including two convincing wins in the NWC tournament.

Although the team is unranked heading into NCAA play, the Bruins hope to make another run in the postseason by picking up a pair of victories on the east coast.

GFU will face Montclair State in the first round of the Division III tournament, playing at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. The Bruins will face MSU at 5 p.m. local time on Friday, with a potential second round game scheduled for Saturday against either host Marymount or Gettysburg.

You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.