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June 25
1859 - Outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez escapes from prison while serving sentence for grand larceny in SCV area; recaptured in August and sent to San Quentin [story]
Tiburcio Vasquez


Game Recap By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director

As far as an analogy to describe his stay at The Master’s University, one that’s included a rocky beginning, a handful of role changes and a stellar climax, including Saturday when he surpassed 1,000 career points, senior Delewis Johnson chose a roller coaster.

“We started off on an incline, really slow and everything,” Johnson said. “Then at the end of my career, we finally get to go down the other side.”

But isn’t a drop a bad thing?

“No, it’s a rush,” Johnson said.

The description was fitting for Saturday night’s 96-84 win over the University of Saint Katherine inside The MacArthur Center. The Mustangs (3-1) ultimately overwhelmed the Firebirds with a rush of energy and intensity that lacked in a sluggish first half when TMU led by only three.

Johnson scored 13 of his game-high 23 points after the break. He added 13 rebounds, five assists and three steals, and the Mustangs kept Saint Katherine (1-7) at arms length down the stretch in what became TMU’s 23rd straight home win.

Hansel Atencia contributed 20 points and four assists, and Tim Soares flirted with a triple double: 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks.

It was defense though that hampered the Mustangs in the first half. TMU allowed Saint Katherine to penetrate off the dribble at will — with little or no help defense. The Firebirds exposed the Mustangs’ pick-and-roll coverage and shot 45 percent from the floor. What once was a 17-point Mustangs lead was whittled to three at intermission, 49-46.

“We just had to give more effort on the defensive end,” said Soares of what TMU talked about in the locker room. “We weren’t being aggressive defensively.”

The message took root.

The Mustangs held Saint Katherine to 35 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes and built the lead back to 17 when Johnson made a nifty backdoor cut and finished at the rim.

The basket — with 6:19 left to play — gave Johnson the 999th and 1,000th points of his career.

The feat served as a credit to the senior’s loyalty.

During Johnson’s freshman season, he earned a starting role and averaged 10.5 points a game, but the team finished 4-20 and underwent a coaching change.

Johnson said he never considered transferring.

“No, I’ve always been the type to be loyal,” he said. “I was going to stick it out no matter what. I’m not real good with change.”

As a sophomore, he didn’t have a choice, transitioning to a bench role on a team that won 27 games and advanced to NAIA nationals for the first time since 2000. “I wasn’t too happy with my role, but I had to adjust,” Johnson said. Then as a junior he returned to the starting lineup but was overshadowed by a trio of NAIA All-Americans.

“It was like taking a backseat,” he said, “but a good backseat.”

Now as a senior, Johnson feels the freedom to assert himself more on offense while “still being a team guy at the same time.” Through four games, he’s averaging 16.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.

“He means a lot to us,” Atencia said. “He was here when the team wasn’t doing really well. I know that was tough for him, but he stayed here with us and it’s been three fantastic years with him. He’s the first person I talked to when I came on my visit. He’s like a brother to me.”

Saturday, Johnson keyed the Mustangs’ second half push. But he wasn’t alone.

Brock Gardner finished with 14 points and six rebounds, and Jordan Starr chipped in 12 points and three assists.

In the end, Saint Katherine’s still won the battle in the paint, 50-46. And the Firebirds’ bench outscored TMU’s, 43-20. Master’s continued to struggle from behind the three-point line.

But the Mustangs made up for it by attacking the rim. TMU attempted 22 free throws in the second half and 38 for the game. It made 31 of them.

TMU’s aggression and discipline on the other end of the floor, however, made the difference — the Mustangs doing a better job of communicating and picking each other up.

“We guarded better after halftime,” coach Kelvin Starr said. “We were more intentional about the defensive end.”

Here’s the box score.

Now, the Mustangs will go on the road Tuesday against the University of Antelope Valley. The Pioneers served TMU one of last season’s three losses. The game was played at Antelope Valley.

“The guys are ready to go,” Soares said. “Everybody is excited and hasn’t forgotten about what happened last year.”

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