Santa Clarita, Calif. — Megan Lindsley’s left-handed runner with less than three seconds remaining capped a late rally and lifted The Master’s College past Biola 57-55 Saturday evening on Bross Court.
The 16th-ranked Mustangs’ ninth straight win vaulted them into sole possession of first place in the GSAC at 4-0 (one-half game ahead of No. 1 Westmont) and improved their overall record to 12-2.
Following a Biola turnover, the Mustangs took possession with 27 seconds left and put the ball in Lindsley’s hands for the final shot. Moving right to left above the circle, the junior All-American from Vancouver, Washington found an opening in the lane and tossed up a shot that hit the back rim and settled into the basket for what turned out to be the game-winner. An Eagle shot at the buzzer went awry and the Mustangs were able to take a sigh of relief.
Three minutes earlier, the Mustangs trailed 54-49 and a chance for victory was looking remote. However, a couple of free throws by Bianca Cubello (Riverside, CA) drew the Mustangs within three, an Olivia Thompson (Huntington Beach, CA) layup made it a one-point deficit (54-53), and when Lindsley scored on a layup with 1:03 left the game was even at 55-all. That set the stage for some tough Mustang defense that forced the decisive turnover and led to Lindsley’s heroics.
The final margin was one of the few times the Mustangs led all evening as the Eagles took control early and led for all but five minutes of the third quarter, and the last minute of play.
After the game Mustang head coach Dan Waldeck was transparent about the win, saying, “In every season there will be times you just don’t play well and you have to find a way. Tonight we found a way. Biola shot the ball well and did everything necessary to win but it was good to see our team’s resolve to do whatever it took to get the victory.”
Behind the strong play of point guard DeMoria White, the Eagles scored the game’s first nine points before the Mustangs rallied to close to 14-10 at the end of the first quarter. White, who confounded the Mustangs most of the evening, tossed in six points in the opening stanza and found teammates with pinpoint passes for easy baskets. A Nicole Nitake (Torrance, CA) three-pointer with 1:12 left in the quarter sliced the deficit to four.
It would be over six minutes before the Mustangs scored again as the Eagles held the hosts without a point for the first 5:02 of the second quarter while the visitors extended their lead to 23-10 with nine unanswered points. Cubello put an end to the drought with a layup at the 4:58 mark and the Mustangs used a half-ending 9-0 run to draw within 25-23 at halftime. A Lindsley free throw ignited the burst and a couple of Thompson buckets sandwiched around a Lindsley jumper capped it off.
The Mustangs were fortunate to trail by only two at the break after shooting just 28% (9-32) but 15 Eagle turnovers led to 13 TMC points.
The deficit disappeared at the 8:48 mark of the third quarter when Thompson drained a three-pointer to knot the game at 26 and when Chayan Lowery (Spring Valley, CA) converted a layup 40 seconds later, the Mustangs had their first lead of the evening. Their advantage grew to four points on two occasions (31-27 and 33-29), however, the Eagles refused to go away and spurred by a 16-5 burst to close out the quarter they overtook the Mustangs and led 45-38 going to the fourth.
A Nitake trey 33 seconds into the final stanza carved the deficit to four points and the Mustangs pulled within two (47-45) on a Cubello layup with 7:57 remaining. The Eagles answered with four straight points for a six-point margin before the Mustangs methodically chipped away at the deficit down the stretch, setting up the last-second win. All of that was made possible by a stingy Mustang defense that limited the Eagles to just 10 points in the final quarter.
That kind of defense was noticed by head coach Dan Waldeck who said, “We needed a great defensive fourth quarter and we got it. We were struggling to make many shots but we didn’t panic and we made key plays down the stretch.”
Lowery, who performed well on the block all evening, paced the Mustangs with 13 points while Thompson and Lindsley added 11 points each. Cubello put together another strong effort, scoring nine points, yanking down 10 rebounds (her seventh double-digit rebounding effort of the season), and dished out a game-high seven assists.
The reward for the win is a five-day break for the Mustangs who travel to Fullerton next Thursday (January 14) to take on Hope International.
Waldeck is looking forward to the break, commenting, “We’ll take this game film and it will teach us tons. I’m looking forward to this next week in practice because this game will help us improve in a major way the next time out.”