Five days after vaulting into the NAIA Top 25, The Master’s College men’s basketball team suffered its second consecutive defeat, falling to Vanguard 80-76 in overtime Saturday evening in Bross Gym.
This one was especially hard to take following Tuesday evening’s loss at No. 4 Concordia. It dropped the Mustangs to 12-5 overall (4-2 GSAC), but more importantly, the Mustangs fell out of a share of first place in the GSAC and now trail front running Westmont by a game.
In the mind of Coach Chuck Martin and his squad, it should have never gone to overtime in light of a 10-point lead (58-48) they enjoyed with just six minutes left in regulation. But, the Lions outscored the hosts 13-3 in a four-minute window, knotting the game at 61 on a Chris Kupets three-pointer with 2:08 remaining.
TMC’s Devin Dyer answered back with a trifecta of his own to push the Mustangs back in front but Vanguard’s Christopher Raybon duplicated that, tying the contest and setting up a wild final minute of regulation.
Paul Brown snapped the 64-all deadlock by hitting one of two free throws with 50 seconds remaining but Kupets came through again for the Lions, banking in a forced attempt with nine ticks left on the clock to give his squad a 66-65 lead.
With the clock winding down, the Mustangs raced down the court and retained possession when the ball was deflected out of bounds. On the ensuing in-bounds play, Jon Hogan was fouled and converted one of two free throws to force the extra period.
The Mustangs drew first blood in overtime when Hogan connected on a jumper for a 68-66 lead. However, Vanguard’s Chris Raybon was fouled on a three-point attempt on his team’s next possession and canned all three shots to lift the Lions to a 69-68 lead. Following alternating trips down the court, Leif Karlberg sank a three-pointer with 3:23 left to play, putting the Mustangs back ahead 71-69.
But, the Lions tied the game once again on a pair of Chris Pynch charity tosses and when Kupets converted two more at the 2:08 mark, the visitors had streaked ahead 73-71. However, the Mustangs weren’t done yet because Anthony Cammon kept them alive, hitting a jumper to tie the game once again, this time at 73 with just under two minutes left to play.
This didn’t faze the Lions once bit as Cameron Nettles countered with a layup, sparking a game-changing 5-0 spurt that put them ahead to stay. Karlberg drew the Mustangs to within two (78-76), burying another three-ball with seven seconds remaining but Pynch iced the victory with two more free throws.
With a couple of exceptions, the Mustangs enjoyed the lead throughout the first half. They trailed at 6-5 and again at 10-9 but keyed by a Chris Patureau layup and a Karlberg trey, the Mustangs outscored the Lions 10-1 over a 4:11 stretch to go up 19-11.
The Lions responded with a 4-0 spurt to close within four points but they would get no closer as the Mustangs lengthened the advantage to 28-20 on a Paul Brown free throw before a Devin Dyer jumper with four ticks left on the clock sent them to the locker room up 30-23.
However, that advantage evaporated quickly in a hail of three-pointers when the Lions used a trio of long-range jumpers to explode past the Mustangs, taking a 35-32 lead with 16:23 left to play.
But, the Mustangs bounced back, using a Karlberg three-ball to fuel an 11-0 burst for a 45-37 lead with 11:49 showing on the scoreboard. It appeared the Mustangs might cruise home from here. Over the next nine minutes, the Lions made several charges but the Mustangs were able to rebuff them.
A Cammon shot from behind the arc with 7:09 left gave the Mustangs a 55-46 lead and the margin reached 10 at the 6:01 mark on Patureau’s layup. But, that’s when things started to fall apart for the Mustangs who weren’t able to put the Lions away for good.
Karlberg and Devin Dyer paced the Mustangs with 15 points apiece while Patureau was huge off the bench with 14 more and eight rebounds.
Despite the disappointing turn of events this week, the Mustangs will have a chance to regain a share of the conference lead on Tuesday when they travel to play Westmont.