Leif Karlberg scored the go-ahead basket with 2:28 left to play, fueling a late 8-0 run that lifted The Master’s College past Pt. Loma Nazarene 66-63 Saturday evening in a key GSAC matchup in Bross Gym.
After starting the evening in a four-way knot for first place in the conference, the TMC win, coupled with Westmont’s defeat of Concordia, made it a two-way tie atop the GSAC with both the Warriors and Mustangs (14-5 overall) sporting 6-2 records.
Karlberg, who tallied 10 second-half points, put the Mustangs ahead 62-61 with a layup and then salted the game away with a pair of free throws in the final 16 seconds. It capped a see-saw second half that featured four ties and seven lead changes.
The first of those lead changes (39-38) came with 15:13 remaining when Devin Dyer scored on a layup that was part of a 9-0 run, pushing the Mustangs to a 44-38 advantage. But, that lead evaporated in less than a minute as the Sea Lions roared back with seven straight points to go up by one.
That set the tone until Karlberg took over in the final two minutes. But, until that point, neither club led by more than four points (TMC 49-45 on a Karlberg three-ball with 10:41 remaining) and three times the score was knotted. The last time came at 58-all on a Dyer charity toss with 4:54 left.
Although the Mustangs enjoyed the last laugh, it was the Sea Lions who controlled the opening 20 minutes, grabbing a 10-8 lead with 14:16 showing on the clock and holding on to it en route to a 33-30 advantage at halftime.
The tie-breaking basket by Sea Lion Anthony Ussery was part of a 9-0 burst that vaulted the visitors into a 16-8 lead at the 11:03 mark. The Mustangs couldn’t get closer than six points for nearly four minutes until Anthony Cammon sparked a run that nearly caught the Sea Lions.
With his club down 22-12, Cammon scored four straight points to ignite a 9-0 burst in a three-minute window that closed the deficit to one point. Cammon got help from Dyer and Paul Brown, who converted three free throws.
But, just as quickly, the Sea Lions returned the favor, outscoring the Mustangs 8-0 over the next 3:40 to lengthen their advantage to 30-21. The Mustangs snapped a scoreless drought of 4:13 on a Richard LaFleur layup with 2:11 left, part of a 9-3 surge that pulled the club within 33-30 at halftime. Dyer finished things off with five straight points, highlighted by a three-pointer with 28 seconds left on the clock.
The Mustangs were fortunate to be that close after connecting on just 38.5% of their shots over the first 20 minutes while the Sea Lions shot at a 52.6% clip.
However, the Mustangs turned those numbers around in the second half, converting at a 56.5% rate while limiting the Sea Lions to 40% accuracy.
Dyer paced four Mustangs in double figures, going for 15 points while Cammon and Brown, who pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, finished with 14 points apiece. Karlberg chipped in with a dozen points.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to Azusa Pacific on Tuesday where they’ll complete the first half of conference play against the No. 7 Cougars who are just one game back.