George Fox Edges Whitworth in Overtime Thriller

George Fox Edges Whitworth in Overtime Thriller

SPOKANE, Wash. - George Fox's Lauren Codling blocked a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds as the Bruins kept their perfect season intact, holding off Whitworth for a 53-52 overtime victory in a matchup of nationally-ranked teams at the Whitworth Fieldhouse on Friday night.

Trailing 53-52 in the waning seconds of overtime, Katara Belton-Sharp drove the baseline but had her shot blocked by Codling and the Bruins were able to gain possession as time expired.

The No. 3/5 Bruins (22-0, 13-0 Northwest Conference) handed No. 19/21 Whitworth (19-3, 10-3) its first home loss of the season. George Fox was held to its lowest scoring total of the season but played strong defense throughout the game, particularly during overtime in holding Whitworth without a field goal. With the loss, the Pirates dropped into a three-way tie for second place in the standings with Puget Sound and Whitman.

George Fox outscored the Pirates 2-1 in a defensive-minded overtime. Justine Benner's midrange jumper on the first George Fox overtime possession proved to be the difference as Whitworth missed its four overtime field goal attempts. Jessica Kramer hit 1 of 2 free throws with 3:09 to play for the lone Whitworth point in extra time.

A pair of clutch 3-pointers highlighted the final minute of the second half. George Fox's Nicole Blizzard connected on a 3-pointer with 42 seconds to play to break a tie at 48-48 before Belton-Sharp responded with a left-corner 3-pointer to tie the game with 22 seconds to play. Following the basket, the Bruins called a timeout but a last-second shot was off the mark and Lexie Zappone corralled the rebound to send the game to extra time.

"That shot (by Belton-Sharp) was huge, but she also did a great job guarding Benner," head coach Helen Higgs said. Belton-Sharp led the Pirates with 15 points and a career-high 11 rebounds in addition to guarding Benner -- the leading scorer for the Bruins at 16 points per game.

The Bruins had built a 48-44 lead late in the second half before the Pirates responded to tie the game at 48-48 with 1:06 remaining on a pair of free throws from KC McConnell.

The Pirates trailed 23-22 at halftime, a drastically different first half than the first meeting of the season between the teams when the Bruins went to halftime with a 44-13 lead in Oregon.

The teams played a back-and-forth first half in the early going until the Pirates put together a 7-0 run to take a 15-9 lead. Whitworth held a 20-16 before George Fox closed the half with a 7-2 run.

The Bruins entered Friday's game averaging just over 76 points per game, but were held well below their season average and won by single digits for just the second time this season.

"Defensively understanding what we were trying to do was huge, and being able to hold them 20 points under their season average," Higgs said. 

Overall, the contest saw nine lead changes and eight ties. George Fox shot 37.7 percent from the field, but held Whitworth to 31.6 percent from the field.

Kramer scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds while McConnell added 10 points.

Jami Morris led the Bruins with 16 points while Benner added 14 points and nine rebounds. Codling had six points and four assists in addition to grabbing 10 rebounds.

Whitworth returns to action Saturday with a 4 p.m. tipoff against Pacific (Ore.) at the Whitworth Fieldhouse. Saturday's game will be Senior Night and Whitworth's five seniors will be recognized prior to the start of the contest.