One team was fighting for a quality seed in the upcoming GSAC Tournament. The other was fighting for a playoff spot, period. So, it wasn’t a surprise that Saturday night’s conference game pitting Pt. Loma Nazarene and The Master’s College was a close, hard-fought contest that went down to the wire.
And, when it did, TMC’s Devin Dyer was ready to deliver, drilling a game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer to hand the Mustangs a timely, 73-72 overtime win over the Sea Lions. The victory was just the second in 12 games for the Mustangs (10-16, 3-13) and it kept them in the hunt for the eighth and final playoff spot. They trail eighth-place Hope International by one game with four games left in the regular season.
Dyer’s big-time shot gave the Mustangs their only lead in the extra period and capped off a 4-0 spurt in the final minute. The Sea Lions snapped a 65-all tie 12 seconds into overtime but Dyer knotted things up with a jumper at the 4:32 mark. It took all of 15 seconds for the visitors to reclaim the lead, one they held until a free throw by Anthony Wells tied things at 69 with 1:44 remaining.
A pair of James Hancock free throws with 1:24 left reclaimed the lead for the Sea Lions and when teammate Rhett Beal converted another charity toss 22 seconds later, Pt. Loma had a three-point lead. The Mustangs shaved one point off that deficit when Joey Fuca canned a free throw with 54 ticks left on the clock.
The Mustangs regained possession following a Sea Lion turnover and a big offensive rebound by Anthony Cammon kept their hopes alive. It all came down to a desperate Fuca, unable to locate a crack in the Sea Lion defense, finding a wide-open Dyer who delivered from behind the arc, setting off a jubilant celebration in Bross Gym.
The game went to overtime because the Mustangs couldn’t hold a pair of seven-point leads in the final four minutes of regulation. The last of those advantages (65-58) came with 3:03 remaining but they didn’t score again while the Sea Lions forced the extra period with a 7-0 run.
The first half was a back-and-forth tussle with neither team creating any type of separation. The Mustangs’ largest lead (23-18) came with 5:50 left in the first period when Cammon drilled a three-pointer. But, less than two minutes later it was all tied after the Sea Lions reeled off a 7-2 run. The Mustangs bounced back with a 6-2 spurt to take a 31-27 halftime lead. Paul Brown keyed the late run with a jumper, Cammon scored on a layup, and Leif Karlberg pumped in a jumper.
The Mustangs, led by Cammon’s seven points, shot just 37% from the field but the Sea Lions did little better at 38%.
Although the Mustangs never trailed in the second half, they never completely pulled away. A Fuca jumper with 15:07 left to play gave them a 38-33 lead but the Sea Lions roared back, tying the game at 39 less than two minutes later. Just over two minutes later, the Mustangs built the lead back to five points (46-41) on a Karlberg three-pointer and after a Sea Lion basket cut the deficit to three, the Mustangs finally started to put some space between themselves and the visitors.
Sparked by a Brandon Bibbons’ trifecta, the Mustangs tore off five straight points to grab an eight-point lead (51-43) on a Cammon jumper with 9:42 left. Less than a minute later, the margin reached nine points (54-45) when Karlberg drilled a three-ball.
The Mustangs were still ahead 56-49 with seven minutes left when the Sea Lions reeled off six straight points in a 1:50 window, closing the gap to a single point at the 5:14 mark. The Mustangs answered with consecutive layups by Wells and Cammon to forge a five-point advantage and everything looked fine until Pt. Loma’s late run to move the game to overtime.
The Sea Lions shot a sizzling 75% from the field in the second half but eight turnovers led to 21 points by the Mustangs, keeping them ahead and in position to win.
Cammon paced five Mustangs in double figures with a team-high 15 points. Karlberg and Dyer contributed 14 points apiece, Fuca had 12, and Wells came off the bench to deliver 11 points.
The Mustangs continue their pursuit of a playoff berth Tuesday night when they play Westmont in Santa Barbara. The Warriors nipped the Mustangs 68-64 back on January 11.