Game Recap By Don Gilmore, TMU Assistant Sports Editor
Saturday evening’s showdown on Bross Court was expected to be a low-scoring affair.
After all, the matchup between The Master’s University and Westmont College featured two of the NAIA’s top 10 defenses.
The game lived up to its billing.
Surging to an early lead and showcasing a dominating defense that has been the squad’s hallmark over the past 10 games, the No. 21-ranked Mustangs led wire-to-wire in a 58-48 win over No. 15 Westmont.
“Our defense was once again extremely solid and tenacious,” said head coach Dan Waldeck. “We have to learn so much on the fly, so for the girls to make those in-game adjustments to overcome a great team speaks to their resilience.”
The victory improved Master’s to 14-4 overall and 6-1 in the GSAC, where they share first place with Arizona Christian.
Over their last 10 outings, the Mustangs have allowed just 43.7 points per game.
From the opening tip-off, Master’s applied that suffocating defense, holding the Warriors scoreless during the first 4:30 of play while forging a 5-0 lead on a Rebekah Throns three-pointer and a Sabrina Thompson jumper.
Holding the Warriors to 14.3 percent accuracy in the first quarter, the Mustangs led 9-7 after the opening 10 minutes.
There was no let-up in the second quarter as the Mustangs duplicated their opening-stanza defensive stand, allowing just seven more points by Westmont while finding the range that gave them a 24-14 halftime lead.
Fueled by a Brooke Bailey trey and a Stephanie Soares layup, the club reeled off a half-closing 10-2 run. Bailey’s second triple in less than three minutes capped the burst.
Bailey (eight) and Soares (six) combined for 14 of the team’s first-half points.
Over the first 20 minutes, the Mustangs shot 33.3 percent from the field. They limited Westmont to just 19 percent (4-21) accuracy.
The Mustangs made only three buckets in the third quarter yet extended their lead to 11 points (39-28) with a strong showing from the line by Anika Neuman.
They led by as many as 14 points (30-16) on a Soares’ layup with 5:53 remaining in the stanza.
When the Warriors closed to 30-21, Neuman answered with four straight free throws that were part of nine consecutive points the sophomore scored to end the quarter.
When Neuman drained a three-pointer to give the Mustangs a 45-31 advantage with 7:55 remaining to play, it looked like the game was over.
Westmont had other ideas.
Playing like the defending GSAC champs and national tournament finalist they were last year, the Warriors scored 10 unanswered points in a 3:06 span to get within 45-41 at the 5:06 mark.
Neuman ended that streak with a layup, and Hannah Forrar duplicated that to build the advantage to eight points with 3:51 left.
Then, Bailey squashed any remaining hopes the Warriors had, grabbing a big offensive rebound and putting the ball back in to make it 52-42 with just over two minutes left to play.
“The team did such an amazing job of maintaining composure when they made their run,” Waldeck said. “I thought Brooke and Anika really stepped up and scored for us in key moments.”
Westmont never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
Neuman paced the Mustangs and tied for game-high scoring honors with 14 points.
Bailey put together her second consecutive strong outing, tossing in 13 points.
Soares scored 13 points and took down a game-high 12 rebounds for her 14th double-double of the campaign.
Here’s the box score.
Winners of six in a row, the Mustangs will face another stern test next Thursday when they play at No. 5 Vanguard in Costa Mesa.
It will be the fourth straight GSAC game for the Mustangs against a nationally ranked opponent. The club has won the first three.
“I feel like our overall growth is continuing to build, so it should be an exciting week again next week,” Waldeck said.