Coach James ties John Lewis for all-time wins in victory at GFU

NEWBERG — Gordie James tied the Willamette University record for most coaching victories with 277 as his Bearcats rallied to defeat the George Fox University Bruins 59-52 in a Northwest Conference men’s basketball game Friday at the Wheeler Sports Center.

James, last year’s NWC Coach of the Year, is now 277-158 in his 16th season with the Bearcats, equaling the total of wins for John Lewis, who was 277-239 in 20 years at Willamette.

It was not an easy victory, however, as the Bruins spent most of the game in front, though rarely by more than a few points.

George Fox never trailed in the first half, leading the whole way except for a 2-2 tie. Bryan Wadlow’s jumper with 8:32 left in the half gave the Bruins their biggest lead at 24-15. It was 28-25 George Fox at the break.

GFU's Kenny Macy hit a three-pointer to start the second half for the Bruins, and the home team kept a slim lead for well over 12 minutes. An Aaron Schmick trey gave the Bruins a 39-34 lead with 11:50 to play, but the Bearcats rallied with a 10-0 run, taking the lead for good at 40-39 on a David Force jumper with 7:39 left.

Macy hit another three to break a 5 1/2 minute scoring drought by the Bruins at 6:07 and cut the lead to 44-42, but the Bearcats hit a perfect 8-for-8 from the line in the final four minutes to remain just ahead of the upset-minded Bruins.

Marques Johnson and Miles Sandgathe paced the Bearcats with 15 points each. Ryan Hepp scored 11 and had four assists, and Harold Sublett, Jr., posted a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

A huge discrepancy in rebounds — Willamette had 43, including 13 offensive, to only 23 for George Fox — was a major factor in the Bearcats’ comeback.

George Fox finished the season at 7-18 overall and in ninth place in the conference at 1-15.

Willamette clinched a berth in the NWC tournament next week and is now 17-6 overall and 11-4 in the conference.

The Bearcats host the University of Puget Sound Saturday at 8:00 p.m.