The Master’s University women’s basketball team punched its ticket to the 2017 GSAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game after beating No. 1 seed Vanguard (the NAIA’s third-ranked team) 69-67 Saturday night in a semifinal round game on Bross Court.
The win improved No. 19 TMU’s overall record to 22-7. The Lady Mustangs, who entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed, will face Westmont in the conference tournament title game Tuesday on the campus of Hope International University in Fullerton at 5:00 p.m. The game will be televised by Fox Sports West and Fox College Sports.
“Well, that was an exciting game,” commented TMU head coach Dan Waldeck. “We were able to outlast a tremendous Vanguard team and make enough plays to pull out the victory. I’m so thankful for the growth that I’ve seen in our young players and the leadership I’ve witnessed from our veterans. When we were 2-5 to start our conference schedule, our team committed to practicing and playing every minute for the simple desire of honoring the Lord with their best. They’ve continued to do that, and God has graciously given them success along the way.” The Lady Mustangs have won 10 of their last 11 games, with their only loss during that stretch coming to this same Vanguard team.
TMU narrowly outscored the Lions in the first and second quarters (18-15, 19-15), and entered halftime with a 37-30 advantage.
However, after halftime, the Lions found new life by outscoring TMU 37-32 over the course of the final two quarters. Vanguard’s Claire Lamunu, who was recently named to the All-GSAC team and was selected as both the conference’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, led the Lions’ attack with a double-double after scoring 16 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.
Lamunu’s relentless efforts helped to bring Vanguard back from their largest deficit of 13 points with 7:45 to play in the fourth quarter. Even though the Lady Mustangs were held without a field goal in the last 5:40 of the game, TMU managed to hold off Vanguard with five free throws down the stretch en route to its two-point victory. The Mustang faithful in attendance were able to breathe a final sigh of relief when Vanguard’s Kandyce Smith had her potential game-tying floater in the lane bounce off the rim as time expired.
The three-time All-GSAC duo of Bianca Cubello and Megan Lindsley spearheaded the Lady Mustangs past the Lions as Lindsley scored an evening-high 17 points, while Cubello followed with 14 more. Not to be overlooked, Ashley Bartow and TMU freshman Sabrina Thompson both scored in double digits with 10 points apiece. Cubello grabbed seven rebounds, recorded three steals, and had one block, while Thompson dished out three assists.
As a team, TMU went 25-52 (48%) from the field, 8-20 (40%) from behind the arc, and 11-14 (78%) from the charity stripe. TMU shared the ball well by tallying 14 assists on its 23 made field goals. Both teams took care of the ball as each only had 11 turnovers.
Now, the Lady Mustangs turn their attention to Westmont, the NAIA’s seventh-ranked team.
“Westmont is playing fantastic,” said Waldeck. “It’s going to be a tall task to beat them on Tuesday, but we’ll prepare as best we can and be ready to compete hard.”
The Warriors have beaten TMU twice this last season. On December 7, the Lady Mustangs fell to the Warriors 50-47 on Bross Court. Then, on January 19, TMU fell to Westmont 61-58 in overtime in Santa Barbara.
Regardless of the outcome, Tuesday’s Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament title game will undoubtedly write another exciting chapter in the Lady Mustangs’ postseason record book. This will be the third time in the past four years that TMU has played in the tournament championship and their fifth overall since joining the GSAC in 2001.
In the 2003 GSAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Championship Game, TMU beat Vanguard 76-66. Three years later (2006), the Lady Mustangs beat Point Loma Nazarene 61-49 in the tournament title game. Eight years later (2014), TMU suffered a 64-59 loss to Hope International University in the GSAC Tournament Championship, but beat Vanguard a year later (2016) 60-54 in the tournament title game.
Tickets for Tuesday’s Championships are $10 for General Admission and $5 for students. The Master’s University men’s team will also play in their championship game following the women’s game. Admission is valid for both games.