Blake Bender scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Westmont outlasted The Master’s College 68-64 Tuesday evening in Bross Gym. It was the Mustangs’ sixth straight GSAC loss (1-6) and dropped them below .500 overall at 8-9.
Bender scored the game’s first points on a layup in the first minute and the Warriors held the lead until TMC’s Leif Karlberg stroked a three-pointer with 15:30 left in the half for an 8-7 lead. Westmont’s Preston Branson then took over, scoring eight of his squad’s next 11 points to push the advantage to 18-13 at the 11:30 mark.
The margin reached eight (21-13) points on a Christopher Miller trey but the Mustangs closed to 21-17 on buckets from Anthony Cammon and Paul Brown. The Warriors kept their distance from the Mustangs, not letting the hosts get closer than four points (28-24) until the final five minutes of the half.
That’s when Cammon, who tallied nine first-half points, went to work. He initiated a half-closing, 9-3 run with a three-pointer at the 4:45 mark and his jumper just over two minutes later knotted the game at 31. Teammate Paul Brown added a basket with 48 seconds left, sending the game to intermission tied at 33.
The Mustangs, who shot just 40% in the first half, were fortunate to be tied considering Westmont’s 53% marksmanship. But, a 13-2 edge in second-chance points was the main reason why the Mustangs were even at the break.
Bender had just six points at halftime but he ramped it up in the first seven minutes of the final period. He started with a pair of free throw and added a layup, all part of a 10-0 run that extended Westmont’s lead to 43-33 with 16:02 left to play.
But, the Mustangs fought back. Sparked by a Devin Dyer three-pointer, the Mustangs outscored the Warriors 7-2 in just under a minute to pull within 45-40. The Warriors answered back quickly and Bender contributed five points to a 7-1 spurt that moved the visitors out to a 52-41 advantage.
It didn’t last long as the Mustangs refused to go quietly. A trifecta from Joey Fuca keyed a 6-0 spurt that Karlberg finished off with a three-point play as the Mustangs drew within 53-50 at the 10:16 mark. Cammon brought the Mustangs even closer two minutes later, his bomb from behind the arc narrowing the deficit to 55-53.
Westmont’s Dan Rasp responded with a pair of free throws but Ronnie Dodd drained another three and, suddenly, the Mustangs were very much alive, trailing by a single point. Westmont retaliated with a Landon Boucher three-pointer and a Bender jumper but Fuca kept the Mustangs close (62-59) on a jumper with 4:30 remaining.
The accordion-style scoring took on another angle when the Warriors reeled off four straight points to extend the margin to seven points and putting themselves in great shape with just 2:34 showing on the clock. But, the Mustangs still had a lot of life and they showed it by scoring five straight points on two Fuca free throws and a Karlberg trifecta, narrowing the deficit to 66-64 at the 1:44 mark.
But, Bender had an answer for that, converting two free throws with 1:09 remaining for a four-point advantage. That proved to be enough as neither club tallied in the final minute with the Mustangs missing four times from behind the arc in the final 15 seconds.
Cammon, who earned a starting nod with 12 and 17-point efforts last week, led the Mustangs with 19 points while Fuca and Karlberg tallied 13 apiece. Brown came off the bench to score seven points and snag a team-high eight rebounds.
The Mustangs will try to snap their conference losing streak this Saturday when they play at California Baptist in Riverside.