George Foxs run through a gauntlet of the Northwest Conference was filled with drama, so for it to end without much fanfare Saturday night versus Willamette made for an odd environment at Miller Gynasium.
By avenging an earlier loss to Lewis & Clark with an 81-78 win Feb 18, the Bruins left themselves a chance to finish fourth and qualify for the Northwest Conference tournament with two games remaining on the schedule.
A Friday night trip to third-place Puget Sound was the first obstacle and a 115-112 overtime loss proved to be the death knell for George Fox, which went on to beat Willamette 86-78 Saturday to finish in a tie for fifth-place with Pacific.
In the meantime, Lewis & Clark went on to beat both first-place Whitworth and second-place Whitman over the weekend to finish 9-7 in conference and claim the last playoff spot.
The Pioneers path to the playoffs was complicated by senior Sean Atkins 30-point performance for George Fox Feb. 18, which helped the Bruins salvage a split in the season series .
In that contest, the Bruins established a 59-46 lead eight minutes into the first half, but Lewis & Clark clawed its way back into the game, pulling to within two points at 78-76 with under a minute to play.
Senior Spencer Bolte responded for GFU, completing an old-fashioned three-point play with 22.1 seconds remaining to push the lead to five, which proved to be enough for the crucial victory.
It was another heart-breaking defeat for the Bruins on Friday in Tacoma as they suffered the setback despite tying the school record for the most three-point field goals in a game, sinking 21 of 45 attempts.
The Loggers led by as many as 10 in the second half, but George Fox rallied to knot the game at 96-96 on a triple by Bolte with 23 seconds remaining. UPS was unable to connect on two attempts, forcing overtime.
The Loggers scored the opening basket of extra time and never trailed again, establishing a 105-99 lead before hitting all 10 of its free throws the rest of the way to offset a rash of GFU three-pointers by Bolte, J.J. Lacey and Jonny Howard.
The Bruins needed to both beat Willamette and for Lewis & Clark to lose to Whitman, but the Pioneers completed an 80-62 win over the Missionaries before the GFU game tipped off at Miller Gym.
Head coach Maco Hamilton switched the focus from winning to having fun, even starting all five of his seniors Bolte, Jason Martin, Cole Larsen, Seth Brent and Atkins. That group played together for long stretches and helped the Bruins (15-9, 8-6 NWC) maintain a double-digit cushion for most of the second half en route to an 86-78 victory that saw junior A.J. Grant score 22 points.