The Master’s College men’s basketball team bounced back from consecutive losses to edge William Jessup 72-70. The infrequent and exciting Thursday night game was decided in the final seconds when the Warriors missed their final shot as time expired.
With the conference win, the Mustangs improved to 3-9 in GSAC play and 8-15 overall.
Russell Byrd (Santa Clarita, CA) scored a team-high 28 points, Harrison White (Winston-Salem, NC) netted 11 while Korey Anderson (Clovis, CA) and Chris Patureau (Houston, TX) added eight apiece.
The Mustangs started quickly, but found themselves down midway through the first half. White scored on a layup that was part of six consecutive points for the North Carolina native to open the half. The undersized Warriors were determined to live and die by the three-ball. And they did a lot more living then dying in the first half.
A 12-2 run by the Warriors included four consecutive treys from behind the arc and put them up 21-11 with 3:16 left in the first period.
TMC battled back thanks to the heroics of Byrd, who scored 18 of his points in the first half. A three-pointer by White with 6:43 left knotted the game at 26-all. Byrd’s two-point jumper capped the Mustangs’ next possession and created their first lead since White’s initial layup.
A 10-0 run by the Mustangs gave them an advantage to work with. The Blue and Gold stretched its lead to 11 points with six seconds left in the half. However, the Warriors made a three-pointer at the buzzer, cutting the Mustang lead to eight (42-34) going into halftime.
Notably, William Jessup shot an impressive 54% (7-13) from behind the arc in the first half while TMC shot only 16% from the same distance. The Mustangs controlled the paint with their superior size, scoring 20 of their points inside compared to only six by the Warriors.
Again, White started the scoring in the second stanza for the Mustang with a layup. Points were at a premium in the first nine minutes of the second half for both teams. TMC regained an 11-point lead, but the Warriors cut the deficit to five with 10:16 left to play.
White injured his knee and fell to the hardwood with 8:15 left and was helped off the court. A moment later, a layup by Byrd gave the Mustangs a 59-51 lead.
The Warriors retaliated by chopping the Mustang lead to two with 4:50 remaining in the game.
TMC answered with six straight points that included a buzzer-beating, three-pointer by Byrd and three free throws by Logan Quinn (Little Rock, AR) after he was fouled behind the arc.
White returned to the line up with 3:02 remaining and did not appear to be hampered by his injured knee.
With 1:50 left in the game the Mustangs seemed to be in control. But the Warriors staged a comeback that included two long-range missiles from behind the arc and a layup that shrunk the deficit to one with 34 seconds to go.
Byrd was fouled and sank both his free throws to give the Blue and Gold a three-point advantage. William Jessup answered with a layup that made it a one-point game again.
Byrd was sent to the line again and made his first free throw. His second attempt bounced off the rim, leaving the Mustangs up 72-70 with 10 seconds left.
After a timeout, William Jessup took the court against the waiting Mustangs one last time with five seconds remaining.
The Warriors, who had thrived on the three-ball most of the game, went for the win against the desperate Mustang defense. The final shot hit air to the left of the hoop as the clock ran out.
With the win, TMC took William Jessup’s seventh-ranked position in the GSAC and dropped the Warriors to eighth. The win also provided a much-needed boost for the Mustangs who have struggled to finish games this season.
The Mustangs resume conference play on Bross Court on February 17 when they host San Diego Christian. The Tuesday night tip-off is set for 7:30pm.