College Notebook: Another special year in works for Gordon, George Fox basketball

Heritage High grad helping Bruins stay undefeated so far

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Eyes on the prize.

The George Fox University women’s basketball team had a target on its collective back before Keisha Gordon became a Bruin — and certainly since.

The Heritage High School graduate started from the first game of her freshman year, a season that culminated in a 32-0 record and NCAA Division III national championship.

Each of the past two seasons ended in the Elite Eight.

In Gordon’s 3 seasons, the Bruins are 102-9. They have won or shared six of the past seven Northwest Conference championships and eight of the last 12, including each of the last five. At 17-0, they have already clinched the program’s 18th consecutive winning season.

Winning may have become routine at the Newberg, Ore., school, but it’s not automatic.

The Bruins get every opponent’s best shot, particularly from their NWC foes.

“That makes it exciting, because we know that we can’t take a practice or a game off because this year, our conference is so good,” Gordon said. “There’s so much talent, so every game for the other teams are like championship games against us. We have to prepare. Our coach has done a really good job of continuing to encourage us that we still have so much to work on. That’s what’s great about playing on this team. Everybody knows that’s the reality: that we have things to get better at.”

Last season was the team’s first under coach Michael Meek. With no players lost from last year’s team and a few additions, Gordon said, hopes started high.

“I think we’ve done some good things, but we have a long way to go,” said the 5-foot-10 senior wing. “It is exciting to see where we’ve come and where we still want to go.”

Gordon — who now also plays some forward since a post player suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend — leads the team with 2.9 assists and 2.8 steals a game, and is second to 6-5 post Hannah Munger in scoring and rebounding (13.3 points and 6.1 rebounds a game). She is shooting 54.1 percent (85 of 157), second to Munger for players with more than one attempt, and only Munger gets to the free throw line and scores more from there.

“I think this year we’re so much of a well-rounded team, and if one person’s not having the best game, you can always count on someone else stepping up and making plays,” Gordon said. “We’re such a balanced team this year. I think it’s really hard for other teams to guard. It’s just really awesome that we have so much talent and in whatever way, we’re going to look to win. Whoever’s leading that game, that’s the way we’re going to go.”

George Fox does not have any losses to avenge, but there is this: The Bruins are home Saturday against a Whitman team they only beat 54-53 in their NWC opener last month.

“I think that was a wake-up call,” Gordon said of the game in Walla Walla. “They are such a good, solid team. We’ve had them on our calendar and we’re making sure that this weekend, we really bring it.”With the Bruins aiming for another trip to the NCAA-III national tournament, Gordon hopes her final season of college basketball ends where her first one did — not only an undefeated season and a national championship, but literally where it ended, with nationals in Holland, Mich., again.

“That’s our goal in the end, and we’ve just got to keep taking it one game at a time,” Gordon said. “If we keep doing what we need to do, good things can happen.”

Clark honors quartet

Four sophomores have been named Clark College Student Athletes of the Month for November and December. Honored for November were Cody Guthrie (men’s soccer) and Carmen LaFond (volleyball). December honorees are basketball players Austin Bragg and Deborah Simmers.

Guthrie was captain of the Penguins soccer team and leader of its defense.

LaFond, a Union High School graduate, was sixth in NWAACC in digs and second on the team in service reception.

Bragg, a 6-foot-8 wing/forward, and Simmers, a 5-8 guard, are leading their respective Penguins teams in both scoring and rebounding.

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