By Mason Nesbitt, Sports Information Director
This was not the first high-pressure situation Jay Turley had faced in his young basketball career. The Master’s University freshman played in tight situations in front of packed gyms while at Westchester High in Los Angeles.
So, the fact that he beat his defender off the dribble and tossed the ball into the basket to extend a Mustang lead that had mostly evaporated during Wednesday’s second half did not come as a surprise to him – or his teammates.
“I love when we’re going play by play and blow by blow,” Turley said. “I just love the atmosphere.”
Said senior Brock Gardner, “We’ve been waiting to see that kind of thing from him.”
The wait was relatively short as Turley delivered two crucial plays in Wednesday’s second half before Gardner and Tim Soares came through with critical buckets in a 73-65 win over the University of Antelope Valley inside The Macarthur Center.
The Mustangs are 2-0 and their home winning streak now stands at 39 games. The spotless run, which dates to January 2017, had to survive a Pioneer team that refused to fold on Wednesday.
Master’s built a 15-point lead early in the second half, but by the 4:49 mark, it was down to six.
That’s when Turley – who scored all of his career-high seven points after intermission – attacked the basket, drew a foul and banked a shot off the glass as he slid to the floor.
“Right when I hit the floor, I looked up and saw it bounce off the glass and go in,” Turley said, adding, “All I heard was the crowd going crazy. That’s when I knew for sure it went in.”
Turley drove again one minute later and drew a foul, knocking down both free throws, an area of the game that hampered Antelope Valley’s comeback attempt. The Pioneers (3-1) missed 13 free throws in the game and five in the final 57 seconds. Master’s made 22-of-29.
Nonetheless, thanks to Kane Keil’s hot hand, Antelope Valley found itself down only two with 2:03 to play. That’s when Master’s turned to its two star big men.
First, Jordan Starr flipped a pass inside to the 6-foot-11 Soares, who had pinned his man directly under the basket. Soares turned and laid it in to extend the lead to four.
Still up four with 25 seconds left, DJ Wilson threw a pass ahead to Gardner on a fast-break, and Gardner soared toward the rim, absorbed contact and dunked the ball with two hands.
“I didn’t know I was going to get the dunk,” Gardner said. “I knew I was probably going to get fouled, but the fact the dunk went down, I had chills running down my body.”
Gardner led the Mustangs with 23 points on 6-of-9 shooting. He was 8-of-9 at the line and had six rebounds and four assists. Soares finished with 17 points and three blocks. Starr was the other Mustang to finish in double figures with 10 points. He added eight rebounds and three assists.
Keil scored nine of his 11 points after halftime, and teammate Kamal Holden scored 15 points for the Pioneers, who have won the Cal Pac regular season title each of the last two seasons and are favored to do it again.
The Mustangs, who led 33-22 at the half before extending it to 15 points early in the final period, knew they’d never be able to coast. They have played Antelope Valley six times since 2016, and four of the games have been decided by single digits. The Mustangs lead the series 5-1.
“Every year we’ve played them, it’s been that way,” Gardner said. “They beat us once at their place, and the other times it’s been like that: back and forth and even though you’re playing well, they’ll stick around. So that was part of our scout: don’t give up, you have to keep the throttle down.”
Wilson scored nine points on 3-of-6 shooting from three for Master’s, which will play the Pioneers again on Dec. 20 in Lancaster.
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