On an evening when it equaled a season-high in scoring, The Master’s College women’s basketball team couldn’t figure out how to stop a more than efficient Fresno Pacific squad, falling to the Sunbirds 89-80 in the Central Valley.
The Sunbird win avenged a double-overtime defeat (76-74) at the hands of the Mustangs on January 3 and slipped the Mustangs further into the second half of the GSAC (9-14 overall, 2-9 GSAC).
Seeking to parlay a strong effort into a win that would put a halt to a stretch of play in which they had lost six of their past seven games, the Mustangs took an early lead and owned much of the first half.
They forged a 6-2 advantage, watched the Sunbirds respond with a 7-2 spurt, and then took control with a 12-2 run that gave them a 20-11 lead with 11:38 left in the first half. Senior Ella Joines, playing her finest game of the season, triggered the outburst with a three-pointer, added another three-ball along the way, and freshman Whitney Best finished it off with a layup.
The Mustangs held on to the lead, though at times tenuous, for 10 minutes until a methodical rally by the Sunbirds put them back in front 28-27. Callie Rohrbacker’s second consecutive three-pointer at the 4:43 capped a 16-3 burst that gave the hosts the lead for good.
The Sunbirds extended the margin out to six points (35-29) on one occasion but the Mustangs closed to 37-36 on a Best layup with 1:09 remaining before trailing at halftime 41-37.
Putting on one of their best shooting displays of the campaign, the Mustangs converted at a 54% clip in the first half with Joines’ 3-4 (2-2 from behind the arc) performance leading the way.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last. During the first four minutes of the final period, one in which the Mustangs would convert from the field nearly 20% less than they did in the first half, the Sunbirds turned a number of second-chance opportunities into a 13-4 run and a 54-41 lead with 16:25 remaining.
It didn’t prevent the Mustangs from contending the rest of the way but it was decisive in that the Sunbirds never yielded the lead the rest of the way. Aided by four free throws from Joines and one more by Best, the Mustangs sliced a 10-point deficit (58-48) in half at the 12:48 mark.
Less than two minutes later, the Sunbird lead shrank to three (63-60) when Morgan Schwegler, who tallied 15 second-half points, hit two free throws and scored on a layup. The Mustangs would never get closer but weren’t out of it yet. The Mustangs’ last gasp came with 5:41 left to play when a Best layup sliced the deficit to 73-70.
From then on the Sunbirds enjoyed six seven-point leads in a seven-minute stretch, the last (79-72) of which came on the front end of a 7-0 burst that put the Mustangs away for good.
The loss spoiled a fine evening for the Joines-Schwegler-Best trio which combined for 55 points. Joines poured in a career-high 22 points on 6-11 shooting from the field, four of which came from behind the arc, and a perfect 6-6 from the line. Schwegler, who went 9-10 from the line en route to a career-high tying 17 points, led the Mustangs with seven rebounds. Best tallied 16 points and dished out a team-high four assists.
In pursuit of turning their season around, the Mustangs now turn their attention to Hope International Saturday evening in Bross Gym. The ball goes up at 5:30pm.