College notebook: Gordon, Bruins keep their focus in quest for repeat D-III title

By Kurt Zimmer, Columbian Sports Reporter

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Heritage graduate leading George Fox women’s team

A George Fox University women’s basketball team with 10 freshmen on the roster did not lose a game last year on the way to claiming the NCAA Division III national championship.

Keisha Gordon said the Bruins have not let their success go to their heads — and nobody in the Northwest Conference will let them forget, anyway.

“This year, we’re a huge target for all these other teams,” the Heritage High School graduate said. “That’s why we practice every day and try to get better, because we know everyone is trying to gun for us. That’s just an incentive for us to keep working hard.”

Gordon, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, leads the Bruins (13-2, 6-0 in NWC play) with averages of 15.5 points and 3.0 steals a game, with her 33 3-pointers made and 88 attempted, and a .846 free throw shooting percentage. She is the team’s second-leading rebounder at 5.5 boards a game.

That versatility is a big help to Gordon, who can post up opposing guards or draw interior defenders out to the arc. It also helps her as a defender — an area in which which she said the Bruins pride themselves.

Gordon loves the fact that all of her teammates are not only skilled, but also coachable and dedicated to the game. Meanwhile, she is embracing a role of “being more of a leader and a vocal person on the court.”

The Bruins lost two key players from last year’s team, including one of their breakout freshman stars.

They had plenty of experience returning to start the season, but Gordon said they knew it would take time to forge a new identity.

“There was a lot of pressure right from the start, and we kind of knew that,” Gordon said. “The big thing that we wanted to make sure of was that we still had a chip on our shoulder and we were the hunters instead of the hunted — just keeping that mindset of wanting it so much more than other teams. I think that’s been a real focus, but last year was last year. I think we’ve been doing a pretty good job of focusing on this year.”

While the Bruins will not go undefeated again this season, they have found and maintained that focus enough to win 13 of 15 games so far, including their last seven. They are ranked No. 7 in NCAA-III by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and No. 10 by d3hoops.com.

Not that it’s been easy. The Bruins were taken to overtime on their home floor by NWC rival Puget Sound before winning 65-62. They play Friday at Lewis & Clark, which is also unbeaten in conference play.

George Fox won its first four games of the season — running its winning streak to 36 — before back-to-back losses in non-conference play. The Bruins fell 54-48 at California Lutheran on Nov. 29, then lost 64-51 at home in Newberg, Ore., to Lewis-Clark State of Idaho. Cal Lutheran (10-4) is receiving votes in both D-III polls, while Lewis-Clark (17-3) is No. 12 in NAIA Division I.

For nine of the Bruins, those losses were the first of their collegiate careers.

“It definitely was a sore feeling, because most of us had never lost a game,” Gordon said. “I think it brought a lot of positives — things that we needed to look inside ourselves and figure out individually, and as a team, as well. .... Having those losses exposed some of the things we needed to work on, so from there, we’ve been working really hard and knowing we do not want to feel that ever again.”

Gordon said she feels at home at the Quaker-founded school, rated by Forbes magazine as the nation’s top Christian university.

“It’s been a blast,” she said. “I just love it. It’s awesome. I can’t imagine myself anywhere else. It’s perfect for me — not only athletically, but spiritually and academically. I absolutely love it.”

Porter, Breihof run into GNAC history

Western Washington’s Sarah Porter and Lauren Breihof placed third and 10th, respectively, in the 3,000 meters at the University of Washington Indoor Invitational meet Saturday in Seattle.

Hockinson High School graduate Porter, an NCAA Division II All-American in cross country and both indoor and outdoor track and field, broke her own school record with a time of 9 minutes, 44.31 seconds, the second fastest time in Great Northwest Athletic Conference history.

Breihof, a graduate of Mountain View High School, finished in 10:12.28 — sixth on the GNAC all-time list.

Concordia’s Dixson sets school record

Concordia University freshman Gabi Dixson set a school record with a mark of 49 feet, 10½ inches at the UW Indoor.

The Battle Ground High School graduate’s mark is also an automatic qualifier for the NAIA indoor nationals.

USU’s Johnson gets boards career high

Utah State senior center/forward Nicole Johnson grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in a 69-56 road loss to Hawai’i on Tuesday.

The Columbia River High School graduate also had a blocked shot, giving her 34 this season and bringing her within eight of the Aggies career record of 127. She leads the Western Athletic Conference at 1.94 blocks a game.

Three Mountaineers named All-Frontier

A trio of Eastern Oregon football players with local ties were named First Team All-Frontier Conference: kicker Tom Akers (Prairie), punt returner Rick Copsey (Camas) and wide receiver Jordyn Jackson (Columbia River).

Suggestions for College Notebook? Contact Kurt Zimmer at 360-735-4563 or by e-mail at kurt.zimmer@columbian.com