The No. 9 nationally ranked Master’s College women’s basketball team took to the road to face the No. 4 nationally ranked Vanguard Lions. At stake was sole possession, if only temporary, of the second place seat in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
The Lady Mustangs and the Lions entered into Tuesday’s match each having one loss on their overall and conference records. Coincidentally enough, each loss was to conference opponent Westmont (16-3, 7-0 GSAC). However, all this changed as Vanguard narrowly defeated the Lady Mustangs with a final score of 69-65.
The loss now gives the Lady Mustangs a 19-2 overall record, and puts them in third place in the GSAC with a conference record of 5-2.
The evening began with Vanguard (15-1, 6-1 GSAC) taking an early lead, forcing the Lady Mustangs to play catch-up for the better part of the first half. It wasn’t until a three-pointer by Kimmy Iverson (San Marcos, CA) gave the Lady Mustangs a single point advantage at 24-23 with 8:30 left to play.
The Lions roared back with two jumpers, before Iverson answered with another trey, tying things at 27-27. A minute later, Iverson threw up yet another three-pointer, giving the Lady Mustangs a short-lived lead at 30-28. But an outstanding 11-2 run on part of the Lions’ offense carried The Pride into the half, challenging the Lady Mustangs to figure out a way to overcome their seven point deficit.
At intermission, Iverson claimed 11 points (nine of which came behind the arc) while Jacquelyn Marshall (San Clemente, CA) followed with 10 more. Kelly Burns (Yorba Linda) yanked down four rebounds, while Lena Rivera (Allen, TX) threw in four assists. The Lady Mustangs ended the first half with a 37 percent (12-31) accuracy on total field goals, while Vanguard posted a dazzling 50 percent (17-34).
The second stanza opened up with Vanguard posting a 6-2 run before Zoe Scott (Spokane, WA) nailed a jumper at the 16:35 mark, bringing the score to 45-36. The next 15 minutes resembled a rollercoaster as the Lions placed an 11 point cushion between them and the Lady Mustangs on five separate occasions.
The Lady Mustangs didn’t go down without a fight as they cut the Lions’ lead to three on two separate occasions. With four minutes left on the clock, the Lady Mustangs made up for lost time with an 11-0 run, championed by Scott who contributed eight points (six of which came behind the arc).
With the game tied at 65-65, the Lady Mustangs made it clear that they were still in the fight. However, four points off of free throws from Vanguards’ Esther Timmermans and Nicole Ballestero gave the Lions the one-two punch they needed to put the game on ice at 69-64.
But the Lady Mustangs’ efforts were not without moments of brilliance, as four different players posted double digits in scoring. Zoe Scott led all scorers with 20 points, followed by Marshall with 16, Iverson with 11, and Rivera with 10. Marshall led the Lady Mustangs with nine rebounds, while Whitney Best (Snohomish, WA) grabbed three steals over the course of the evening.
The Lady Mustangs will have to quickly shake Tuesday’s heart breaking loss, and focus on Saturday’s game against the Firestorm of Arizona Christian (4-15, 0-7 GSAC). Tip-off is set for 5:30 PM in Bross Gym.
There’s a reason why Vanguard’s home gym is nicknamed The Pit. Over the years, The Master’s College men’s basketball team has had its struggles there and Tuesday night was no exception as the Lions used a 20-6 run that bridged the halves to run away from the Mustangs, 81-70, in a game that marked the halfway point of conference play.
Dropping their sixth contest in their last eight outings, the Mustangs fell to 13-9 overall and, more importantly, 2-5 in the GSAC where they are joined by three other teams in a tie for fifth place.
That game-changing run started with a tying (28-all) bucket by Jordan Diandy with 2:46 left in the first half and ended over seven minutes later when Chris Gorman drained a three-pointer with 15:16 remaining in the contest for a 46-34 lead.
The Lions weren’t done yet, either. Not content to just trade baskets with the Mustangs, the Lions extended the margin to as many as 16 points (66-50) and didn’t let the lead dip under 10 points until Derrick Fain (Dallas, TX) capped off a late 7-2 burst with a layup, slicing the deficit to 72-63 with just over a minute to play.
But, the Lions trampled any hopes of a miraculous comeback, reeling off six straight points from the line to restore order. In fact, the hosts tallied their final 11 points from the charity stripe, where they enjoyed a 23-9 advantage during the evening.
If the outcome had been determined by the first 10 minutes of action, the Mustangs would have walked away with a win. Converting eight of their first 11 shots from the field, the Mustangs galloped to a 19-9 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the opening stanza.
Sandwiching layups from Paul Brown (Kingston, Jamaica) and Devin Dyer (Temecula, CA) around a Jason Logan (Spartanburg, SC) dunk, the Mustangs scored the game’s first six points. After the Lions answered with a 7-4 skein to pull within 10-7 at the 12:01 mark, the Mustangs bolted again, tallying nine of the game’s next 11 points to create a 19-9 lead with 10:03 left in the half. Logan Quinn (Little Rock,AR) fueled the burst with a three-pointer, Korey Anderson (Clovis, CA) converted a three-point play, and Lance Reeves (Visalia, CA) capped it off with another trifecta.
The Mustangs’ only double-digit advantage of the evening lasted less than a minute and seemed to awaken the listless Lions who used eight points, including a pair of three-pointers, from Taylor Kelly, who was just getting started, to draw within 19-18 at the 7:32 mark of the half.
Clinging to the slightest of leads, the Mustangs answered with a Leif Karlberg (Anchorage, AK) three-pointer and fended off the Lions one more time on a Fain layup with 5:23 left. However, the Lions were just starting to run at full speed and Kelly led the way. HItting consecutive trifectas for the second time in less than five minutes, he single-handedly put his club ahead 26-24.
The Mustangs retaliated with four straight points from Brown to reclaim the lead (28-26) at the 3:02 mark but moments later Diandy knotted the game with a layup that sparked the Lions’ decisive run and the Mustangs never led again.
Hitting 47 percent of their shots from the field, the Mustangs enjoyed a slight edge over the Lions (43 percent) but the visitors couldn’t overcome the deficit at the free-throw line and five Vanguard players in double figures.
Logan paced the Mustangs with 13 points while Dyer and Fain added 12 points apiece. Brown tallied eight points and tore down a game-high nine rebounds.
With seven games left in the regular season, the Mustangs are now in must-win mode if they have any chance of finishing in the upper half of the conference standings and securing a first-round home playoff game in the GSAC Tournament. Their first challenge in that direction comes in the form of No. 25 Arizona Christian which comes to Bross Gym Saturday for a 7:30pm start. The Firestorm beat the Mustangs 84-69 in the Valley of the Sun back on January 12.