HOLLAND, Mich. — Illinois Wesleyan won the program’s first national championship with a 57-48 victory against George Fox on Saturday.
The Titans trailed 48-43 with 3:46 to play in the game but held the Bruins scoreless in a 14-0 run to claim the championship. With the game tied at 48, junior Melissa Gardner buried a 3-pointer to give IWU the lead for good at 51-48 with 1:02 to play.
Senior Olivia Lett, who was chosen the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player and was earlier named to the first team of the All-America squads, made six free throws in the final 38 seconds to seal the title.
It was all George Fox early as the Bruins got out to a 9-0 lead and kept the Titans from scoring until 14:16 left in the half on a basket by sophomore Colleen McMahon.
George Fox’s All-American 6-foot-5 center Hannah Munger suffered a knee injury with her team on top 11-7 with 12:40 to play in the half but the Bruins continued to hold the lead without her, building up a 19-10 advantage with 9:09 remaining.
But the final minutes of the half belonged to IWU as the Titans outscored the Bruins 18-3 and kept George Fox scoreless during a 7:58 stretch to take a 28-22 lead at halftime.
George Fox battled back to regain the lead at 42-41 with 6:25 left in the game and, thanks to a 13-0 run when down 41-34, took a 47-41 lead with 5:02 left.
Lett led the Titans with 22 points and seven rebounds, making 11 of 12 free throws and 5 of 15 from the floor. No other IWU player was in double figures but Gardner and sophomore Lexi Baltes each had eight points.
Taking advantage of Munger’s absence, the Titans outrebounded the Bruins 40-36, led by senior point guard Brittany Hasselbring’s eight boards.
The Bruins suffered a poor shooting night, going 17 of 53 from the field (.321) and making only 1 of 16 3-pointers (.063). George Fox made 13 of their 21 free throw tries (.619) and committed 13 turnovers while forcing IWU into 16.
The All-Tournament team included Lett, Amherst’s Caroline Stedman (Amherst), Maggie Weiers of St. Thomas (Minn.) and George Fox teammates Munger and Keisha Gordon.
• Gardner drains clutch 3-pointer