Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
It was not so much a conversation or a command as it was a feeling.
“It was everyone on the floor feeling it was his moment,” said Darryl McDowell-White. “We needed to get him the ball.”
On several occasions, Tim Soares took said ball and hammered it through the cylinder, finishing with a season-high 32 points and lifting the No. 5-ranked Mustangs past Life Pacific, 104-96, on Saturday at TMU. In the process, Soares secured two milestones.
For one, the junior’s 26 second-half points were crucial to fending off Life Pacific’s late rally and preserving what is now a 32-game home winning streak.
Secondly, Soares surpassed 1,000 points for his career.
“He’s been huge for us on both ends of the floor,” said head coach Kelvin Starr of Soares’ sterling three years at TMU. “His character, the kind of kid he is. It’s obvious.”.
After Life Pacific (8-9, 2-6 in GSAC) cut what had been an 18-point deficit to five with 50 seconds remaining, TMU’s best option was obvious.
Hansel Atencia tossed the ball to Soares near the top of the painted area. Soares drop-stepped toward the basket, taking one dribble and gliding in for the finish.
The Warriors came within five again, but Atencia connected with Brock Gardner on a three-quarter court pass, and Gardner’s uncontested dunk all but sealed it.
The win helped the Mustangs (17-3, 6-2) avoid back-to-back losses for the first time in two years.
Soares said Thursday’s loss at No. 9 Vanguard was in the back of the team’s mind Saturday. “There was a sense of urgency,” he said.
Still, Life Pacific followed a similar blueprint to the one Vanguard had used.
The Warriors made nine three-pointers before halftime Saturday – at which point TMU led 45-41 – and finished with 16 for the game on 42 attempts.
Master’s countered with one its most efficient halves of the season. The Mustangs shot 76 percent from the floor after the break, making 4-of-5 three-point shots.
McDowell-White was at it again. The junior guard made 5-of-8 from beyond the arc, marking the second time in three games where he made five treys.
Atencia racked up 10 assists, the second time in three contests he reached double digits in that category. He entered the night fourth in NAIA Division 1 in total assists.
His dump off to Soares for a dunk shortly after halftime got the Mustangs off on the right foot, and Soares was far from finished.
The center’s highlight came moments later when he caught a pass outside the three-point line, put it on the deck, took two long strides across the paint and finished with his right hand through contact. He screamed toward the wall, as if challenging the barrier to stop him. On this night, Soares might have left Bross Court in need of a remodel.
He made 11-of-12 shots and pulled down eight rebounds.
“I’m thankful to my parents and coaches and to everyone that’s been in my life, that’s helped me get to this point,” Soares said. “It’s cool to see the fruit of that.”
The big man wasn’t alone in his post prowess.
TMU’s Michael Taylor finished with a career-high 17 rebounds to go with 12 points. He wowed the large crowd with a one-handed dunk off a Jordan Starr alley-oop pass in the first half.
The building shook. Taylor heard?
“Nothing,” he said.
Here’s the box score.
Thursday, the Mustangs will have a chance to make serious noise when No. 21 Arizona Christian visits TMU. Master’s eked out a 100-93 comeback win over the Firestorm in Arizona last month.