For most of Tuesday night’s women’s basketball game between The Master’s and Westmont, it was hard to discern which team was the GSAC frontrunner and the nation’s No. 6 squad, and a team struggling just to make the conference tournament in two weeks.
Responding to the highly-touted Warriors’ incursion into Bross Gym, the Mustangs went tooth and nail in quest of an upset before watching the hosts pull away in the final two minutes for a 66-56 victory.
The loss was the Mustangs’ second in a row and kept them in an eighth-place tie with Concordia. To earn a spot in the GSAC Tournament the Mustangs (11-16, 4-11) must finish the season in that spot or higher.
It appeared that the Mustangs might climb out of that spot when Zoe Scott buried a three-pointer with 4:28 left to play, pulling the hosts to within 58-56. But, those were the final points of the evening for the Mustangs while the Warriors tallied the last eight points to close out the win.
The eight-point difference at the buzzer was the second-highest margin of the game only surpassed by a 56-47 advantage the Warriors held with 7:46 remaining. In a little over three minutes, the Mustangs whittled the deficit down to two points, using a 9-2 spurt to do so. Lindsey Levanen triggered the run with a free throw but it was a pair of trifectas from Scott that really made the upset a possibility until the lid slammed shut on the rim.
For the most part, those eight- and nine-point leads enjoyed by the Warriors did not reflect the close nature of the game. In the first half alone, the lead changed hands 12 times and there were four ties.
One of those lead changes came on the front end of a 7-0 run by the Mustangs that propelled them to a 14-8 lead. Kimmy Iverson, who hit a pair of three-pointers in the first half, capped off that burst with one from behind the arc.
But, it took the Warriors all of 2:40 to erase that deficit as they ripped off six straight points to tie the game with 11:24 left in the first half. No more than three points separated the two clubs until another Scott trey, part of a 7-0 burst, led to a 28-22 lead at the 4:57 mark.
However, the Mustang offense went quiet over the final five minutes of the first half and the Warriors took advantage, scoring nine of the game’s next 11 points to catch and pass TMC, taking a 31-30 lead at halftime.
Seven of these nine points came from the charity stripe, a place the Warriors visited regularly in the first half, going 13-14 to offset a 39% shooting performance from the field. Meanwhile, the Mustangs preferred hitting their shots from the field, converting at a 52% clip.
The nip-and-tuck nature of the game was still on display in the opening minutes of the second half before an 8-0 skein by the Mustangs started to plant some doubt in the Warriors’ minds. Down 37-32, Scott hit a free throw that started the run and finished it off at the 16:46 mark with a jumper that gave the Mustangs a 42-39 lead.
They would enjoy two more such margins over the next three minutes before an 8-0 spurt by the Warriors turned the game in a different direction. Ultimately, the run reached 13-3 and when it did, the Warriors had that 54-47 cushion that was too much for the Mustangs to overcome.
Scott, who went 3-4 from behind the arc, led the Mustangs with 14 points while Iverson was the squad’s only other double-figure scorer, finishing with 11. Lena Rivera tallied nine points and yanked down a team-high six rebounds.
With three games left in the regular season and a playoff berth on the line, the Mustangs hit the road on Saturday, traveling to San Diego to take on Pt. Loma Nazarene. The Mustangs toyed with the Sea Lions in the clubs’ first matchup of the season in January, winning 78-57.