The first two people Alexis Noren searched for in the stands were a pair of former University of Puget Sound women’s basketball teammates.
And Noren saw Emily Sheldon and Allie Wyszynski in the lower stands, and heartily smiled.
Finally, the losing streak to George Fox University was over.
In a tension-filled game better suited for March than December, the Loggers outlasted eighth-ranked George Fox, 86-85, on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of Northwest Conference unbeatens at Memorial Fieldhouse in Tacoma.
Samone Jackson scored a career-high 27 points, and Noren added 19 points and 10 rebounds in leading the Loggers’ charge.
The UPS victory snapped its 16-game skid against the Bruins. It also halted George Fox’s 33-game winning streak against conference opponents.
“One of the goals coming into this season … was to beat George Fox. They are a heck of a team, and have a great reputation,” said Loree Payne, who collected her first career win against the Bruins.
“But we don’t want this (win) to define our season. Having them early here, everything set up well to capitalize on this game.”
Even though UPS (6-0, 2-0 NWC) led 37 of the 40 minutes, it was never comfortable. The Loggers’ biggest lead was 10 points in the first half.
George Fox’s fullcourt pressure forced 31 turnovers by UPS, setting up a wild fourth quarter in which the lead changed hands five times.
With the game tied at 77-77, Jackson hit the first big shot — a top-of-the-arc 3-pointer with 1:35 to go to give the Loggers the lead back. She finished with six 3-pointers.
“This game was super tense,” Jackson said. “I had the jitters — everybody had the jitters.”
The Bruins (6-1, 1-1) regained the lead, 82-81, on Kaitlin Jamieson’s short jumper in the lane. The 6-foot-3 junior had seven of her team-high 18 points in the final 3:50.
Back came the Loggers and Noren, their do-everything senior.
Patiently seeing the left baseline clear, Noren took off, beat defender Kaycee Creech and converted the nifty basket despite a foul by Creech. Noren’s three-point play gave the Loggers an 84-82 lead with 31 seconds remaining.
“It was a read (play),” Noren said. “Obviously we had good screen posts and I saw a lane. I was fortunate enough to finish with the right hand, and Creech couldn’t get it.”
George Fox trimmed it to 86-85 on Kylin Collman’s corner 3-pointer with 8.3 secronds to go. And after UPS’ Caitlin Malvar missed two free throws on the other end, the Bruins had one final chance to win it.
But Kimberly Frost’s 25-footer from the right side went way over the rim — and the Loggers could celebrate.
The Loggers made 30 of 36 free throws in the game, compared to the Bruins’ 17 of 28.
“This is huge — I’ve never beaten them before. That is why I looked for Emily and Ally, the seniors from last year, to share that,” Noren said.
“But it was also important that we realized, all this time, you cannot be so worried about the (GFU) name. It’s basketball.”