That is the big question on a lot of people’s minds this year (it’s on my mind at least). Can the George Fox Bruins do it again? Last year they won the National Championship with no returning starters and 10 freshmen on the team. That means that the majority of their team is returning this year as they try and win their second championship game in a row.
They did, however, lose a key player when lone senior, Kristen Shielee graduated last year. Shielee has quite a unique story. Her first three years of college were spent sitting on the bench, which would leave almost any player considering quitting and Shielee was no different. According to the George Fox graduate she seriously considered quitting the team, but in the end figured she dedicated three years to the team, so what’s one more? To say her life would be different today if she had quit is an understatement. The most outstanding player at the DIII Final Four, averaged 12 points per game her senior year and blocked 122 shots, a school record. Oh yeah, and she won a National Championship. But not even Shielee could have predicted what she is doing now that she has graduated from college. Last June, she joined the Pamplona Ardoi, a professional team in Spain. It is unexpected because of her first three years, but not because of her ability. She finally was given the opportunity to play her senior year, and she improved tremendously, showing she had only scratched the surface of her potential. Playing overseas will give Shielee the opportunity to make up for lost time. The Pamplona Ardoi fall around the bottom of their conference, meaning Shielee won’t be making enough money to survive on. In addition to playing basketball, she is teaching an English class.
The Bruins have lost two games this year, which is two more than last year’s team. George Fox is ranked fifth by both national polls, and on Friday they will face Carthage College (#14 according to D3hoop.com) in the ‘Sweet 16’. Washington University in St. Louis, last year’s runner-up, will play host for this sectional.
The Bruins may be the defending national champions, but they will face a tough opponent in Carthage who they have never met before. The Lady Reds have beaten the #1 ranked team twice this year, defeating Hope 51-47 in December, and Illinois Wesleyan 72-67 at the end of January. These wins for the Bruins gave both Hope and IWU their only losses of the season.
Carthage’s roster includes first-team All-CCIW player Diana Jacklin. Jacklin averages 14.9 ppg, 7.5 rebounds per game, 1.6 blocked shots per game, 1.76 steals per game, and shoots 55%. She is a sophomore at Carthage, but should really be a junior. The 6′ center played her first two seasons at Florida Gulf Coast University, a Division I school in Ft. Myers, FL. She was red-shirted there her freshman year, but played in 20 games, averaging 2.9 ppg as a sophomore.
George Fox is led in scoring by Keisha Gordon who averages 14.1 points per game, followed by Hannah Munger with 12.1 points per game. Munger also provides the team with a height advantage against most opponents, as the freshman post stands at 6’5. Usually, a plus of having a height advantage is blocked shots, and it’s no different for Munger who has blocked 98 shots this season. Gordon is a 5’10 sophomore guard who averaged 12.7 ppg her freshman year. She was also a leader on last year’s team, scoring almost 400 points in the season, meaning she is well on her way to 1,000 which she will most likely reach sometime next season.
If George Fox comes out with the win they could possibly face a repeat of last year’s National Championship game by facing Wash U. The Bears would have to beat the 26-4 Purple Raiders of Mount Union.
This is Mount Union’s fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and also their fourth trip to the sectional round. The Purple Raiders defeated Washington & Jefferson (PA) 71-48 in the first round, followed by a much closer victory in the second round. Mount Union beat Messiah 62-61 in overtime the next night.
Their opponent, Washington-St. Louis, is among the nation’s elite programs. The Bears won four consecutive National Championships beginning in 1998. Their first round win was an 81-67 victory over Maryville, followed by an almost 20 point win over Thomas More in the second round (68-49). This year is their 21st straight year playing in the NCAA Tournament, and they made it to the Final Four eight of those years, including last year when they lost to George Fox in the finals.