March 20, 2009

BY Greg Chandler
               
HOLLAND, Mich.
– Unbeaten George Fox (Ore.) University used a sizzling outside shooting performance Friday night to reach its first NCAA Division III women’s basketball championship game, defeating The College of New Jersey, 67-52, in a national semifinal game at DeVos Fieldhouse.

The Bruins (31-0) tied an NCAA tournament record with 14 3-point baskets in advancing to the 1 p.m. championship game Saturday against Washington University of St. Louis (26-4), a 65-49 winner over Amherst (Mass.) College earlier Friday. The game will be telecast on CBS College Sports and the audio broadcast can be heard on the Internet at D3hoops.com.

George Fox, which has 10 freshmen on its 14-player roster, broke open a close game early in the second half on the strength of its deadly long-range shooting. Freshman Sage Indendi, who led all scorers with 23 points, hit three of her six 3-pointers during a 23-9 outburst that gave the Bruins a 57-35 lead with 14 minutes remaining. TCNJ got no closer than 15 points the rest of the way.

“Once again, this young, young team didn’t play young,” George Fox coach Scott Rueck said. “They came out and competed from the beginning, like basketball players. Age didn’t matter. It was another opportunity to go out and take on a challenge, and they met it.”

Led by senior center Hillary Klimowicz, honored Thursday as the national Division III player of the year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, TCNJ (27-5) jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, with Klimowicz scoring two baskets and Nicole Diaz hitting a 3-point basket.

But the Bruins began to assert themselves, taking the lead for the first time at 10-9 five minutes into the game, and for good at 23-20 on Arianna Mohsenian’s 3-point basket with five minutes left in the half. Another 3-pointer, this one by Indendi, at the first half buzzer gave the Bruins a 34-26 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

“We needed a dagger, and that gave us some momentum going into the second half,” Indendi said.

The Bruins shot 40 percent from the field (22 of 55) for the game, but made 14 of 28 from 3-point range for 50 percent. The 14 3-pointers tied a tournament mark set in 2004 by Hardin-Simmons (Texas) and matched in 2006 by Bridgewater (Va.).
                
George Fox also outrebounded the Lions 40-30 and blocked six shots, five of them by 6-foot-4 center Kristen Shielee.

“We knew that Hillary was going to be handful on the inside, and it kind of went as I hoped,” Rueck said. “Kristen did a great job slowing her down, making her take 19 shots to get her 19 points … and I thought the rest of our team did a great job locking down on the perimeter and staying with their shooters.”

The Lions shot 38 percent from the field (21 of 55), but made only 2 of 12 on 3-pointers.

“Certainly, George Fox is a great team. They’ve got good balance,” TCNJ coach Dawn Henderson said. “I think we played a little timid in the face of their pressure. They did the things they do normally do, and we didn’t do the things we do normally.”

Shielee, George Fox’s lone senior, added 15 points and nine rebounds, and freshman Keisha Gordon added 12 points, including three 3-pointers. Klimowicz led TCNJ with 19 points and nine rebounds, and Kelsey Kutch added 14 points.

The Lions will play in the 10 a.m. third place game against Amherst (29-3).