Three weeks ago, the Lady Mustangs were ranked No. 8 in the NAIA, undefeated at 17-0 & 4-0 in the Golden State Athletic Conference, and tied for first place with the then-No. 9 Westmont in conference standings. The Warriors changed that on January 22nd in Bross Gymnasium where they delivered the Lady Mustangs their first loss of the season at 68-57.
Since then, the Lady Mustangs have produced five wins and three losses, bringing their overall record to 22-4, and 7-4 in GSAC play. Unfortunately, each loss has been against conference opponents, and plants The Master’s College in third place, one seat in front of San Diego Christian (15-12, 7-3 GSAC), and trailing No. 7 Vanguard (18-2, 9-2 GSAC).
As it often does, history repeated itself Tuesday night in Santa Barbara as the newly minted No. 6 nationally ranked Warriors topped the No. 11 Lady Mustangs 77-66, and extended their overall record to 20-2 and 10-0 in conference play. The win also gives the Warriors solid possession of the Golden State Athletic Conference.
The loss didn’t come without effort as the Lady Mustangs controlled the floor for the first 15 minutes of play. TMC’s largest lead of the night came early when Whitney Best (Snohomish, WA) drove in a layup putting the Lady Mustangs up 12-6 with 16:55 left to play. But the Warriors’ offense continued to chip away at the Lady Mustangs struggling defense in the following ten minutes, and took the lead when Esther Lee sank a three-pointer, giving Westmont a 28-27 advantage. Lee’s trey sparked a 15-6 run in favor of the Warriors, bringing the score to 43-33 at the break.
Any hopes of half-time slowing down the Warriors were quickly dashed as Lee opened up the second stanza with another three-pointer putting Westmont up 46-33. From there, things escaladed quickly as the Warriors strategically picked apart the Lady Mustangs defense, forcing them to face a 20 point deficit- their largest of the season. Lee struck again and twisted the knife at the 3:44 mark, posting a 77-57 lead for the Warriors. The Lady Mustangs managed to rattle off nine more points, bringing the final score to 77-66 at the buzzer.
“We must learn the importance of defending,” assessed Lady Mustang head coach Dan Waldeck. “Tonight, we didn’t defend at all.”
A silver lining to Tuesday’s loss was the numbers that Jacquelyn Marshall (San Clemente, CA) put up for the Lady Mustangs. Marshall earned a double-double with a team high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Lena Rivera (Allen, TX) followed with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
If the Lady Mustangs don’t rebound quickly at Saturday’s 5:30 PM road game against San Diego Christian, their post-season picture has the potential to get cloudier as they are slated to finish their regular season schedule with matchups against No. 7 Vanguard, and Hope International.
Reeling off 12 straight points in a five-minute span that bridged both halves, No. 6 Westmont never looked back and rolled past The Master’s College 63-54 Tuesday evening in Santa Barbara.
The loss was the Mustangs’ third in a row and sent them into a last-place tie in the GSAC (3-8, 14-12 overall) with San Diego Christian.
Down 22-20 following a Jason Logan (Spartanburg, SC) free throw with 2:58 left in the first half, the Warriors’ run was triggered by consecutive layups from Niko Brooks, the first knotting the game and the second putting the hosts ahead for good. A Jason Ritchey free throw gave the Warriors a 25-22 halftime lead which Brooks expanded 12 seconds into the final stanza with another layup as Westmont tallied the first seven points of the second half to go up by 10 (34-22) with 17:26 left to play.
Leif Karlberg (Anchorage, AK) snapped the Warriors’ skein nine seconds later with a jumper but the Mustangs never fully recovered. The Warriors made sure of that with another burst, this one of the 16-8 variety that lengthened an eight-point advantage to a 50-34 lead with 7:44 left to play.
That proved to be too much of a hill for the Mustangs to climb although they had a run left in them that closed the gap considerably and gave thought to a miraculous comeback.
Trailing by that 16-point margin, the Mustangs started to slice away at the deficit over the next five minutes. Consecutive three-pointers from Chris Patureau (Houston, TX) and Devin Dyer (Temecula, CA) quickly made it a 10-point game and when Karlberg and Logan Quinn sandwiched a pair of triples around a Dyer free throw, the Mustangs were suddenly within 54-49 with 2:25 remaining to play.
However, Brooks put an end to the 15-4 run with another layup, a basket sparking a decisive 6-0 burst that eventually put the game in the win column for the Warriors. The Mustangs got as close as 61-54 on a Quinn layup with 22 seconds showing on the clock, but the Warriors closed things out from the line, tallying their final seven points on free throws.
Early on it appeared that the first-place Warriors (10-1 GSAC, 22-4 overall) would run away and hide from the Mustangs, ripping off seven straight points to start the contest. But, the Mustangs proved to be resilient, showing it after trailing 9-3. Keyed by a Dyer jumper and a Derrick Fain (Dallas, TX) trifecta, the Mustangs roared back to take a 15-14 lead on a Paul Brown (Kingston, Jamaica) dunk with 8:58 left in the first half.
After Westmont knotted the game at 16, Fain’s three-point play gave the Mustangs their largest lead of the game at the 5:51 mark, an advantage they would enjoy one more time when a Logan layup made it 21-18 just over a minute later. But, that lead was short-lived as the Warriors started their game-changing run just over two minutes later.
Fain led three Mustangs in double figures, scoring 11 points. Karlberg and Quinn followed with 10 points apiece.
With three games left in the regular season, the Mustangs must now collect themselves in pursuit of as high a finish as possible with the GSAC Tournament just around the corner. They will try to do so Saturday evening in El Cajon where they will take on San Diego Christian. The Mustangs beat the Hawks 81-71 back on January 26.