|Westmont’s Angel Shines Brightly|
Westmont’s Angel Blanco tallied the last two points of regulation and the first four points of overtime to lead the 21st-ranked Warriors past The Master’s College 70-68 Tuesday evening in a key GSAC contest in Santa Barbara.
Entering the contest, the Mustangs trailed the conference’s fourth-place team by one game in their quest for a top four finish in the regular season that would give them a first-round home game in the upcoming GSAC Tournament. After 45 minutes of play and a crushing loss, the club (16-10, 9-8) left where they had started the evening, in a seventh-place tie with Concordia.
Blanco, whose 17 points tied her for game-high scoring honors with teammate Vanessa Farias, started her late-game heroics by hitting a pair of game-tying (58-58) free throws with 14 seconds remaining in regulation. Those shots sent the game to overtime where Blanco canned two, tie-breaking charity tosses 40 seconds in and then sank a jumper with 3:51 left for a 62-58 lead.
The Mustangs, who trailed by as many as five points in overtime, pulled to within two on four occasions, including the final score, but could never catch the Warriors. Senior Erica Inge’s three-pointer with 1:56 left pulled the Mustangs closer (65-63) and when Zoe Scott duplicated that 30 seconds later, the Mustangs trailed 68-66.
But Blanco came through again, hitting two more free throws at the 57-second mark to give the Warriors their final points of the evening and just enough to hold off the Mustangs. Inge sliced the deficit to two points (70-68) again with 51 seconds remaining and the Mustangs had a chance at the end but Ella Joine’s three-pointer with three seconds left went awry.
It was a disappointing ending for the Mustangs who appeared to be on their way to a huge road victory. After a nip-and-tuck first ten minutes of play that featured seven lead changes, the Mustangs used a 9-0 run over a 3½-minute span to take control. Down 18-16 with nine minutes left in the first half, Lauren Labat buried a three-pointer to put her club ahead again and when Inge followed with a pair of layups, and Lindsey Levanen and Scott converted one free throw apiece, the Mustangs had a 25-18 advantage at the 5:33 mark.
But, it took the Warriors only two minutes to turn the tables, ripping off six straight points to draw within one point. Ella Joines countered with a three-ball and Lena Rivera’s two free throws with 51 seconds remaining sent the Mustangs to halftime up 30-26.
Neither team really lit it up in the first half with Westmont connecting on 41% of its shots while the Mustangs hit at a 36% clip.
Although that percentage did not improve in the opening minutes of the second half, it didn’t keep the Mustangs from extending their lead. A Theresa Brown jumper and a Scott triple lengthened the advantage to 35-28 and when Rivera scored on a layup with 16:44 left to play, the Mustangs had their largest lead (41-33) of the evening.
Once again, though, the Warriors answered, holding the Mustangs scoreless over the next three minutes while tallying five points to close to within three. A three-point play by Joines doubled the lead for the Mustangs before the Warriors rallied again, using a 7-2 burst to pull within 46-45.
The Warriors finally caught the Mustangs at 47 on a Lisa Peterson layup with 10:24 showing but the Mustangs, behind seven straight points by Scott, snatched the lead again and appeared to be in great shape with just over seven minutes remaining.
However, the Warriors were not about to go down so easy, especially in front of a partisan crowd. So, they reeled off five consecutive points in less than a minute to slice the deficit to two points (54-52) and then caught the Mustangs again, tying the game at 56 on a Blanco jumper with 3:01 left to play. That was just the beginning of what would be Blanco’s game-winning show.
Although the Mustangs shot a robust 67% (4-6) from the field in the extra period, they only shot 29% in the second half and finished at 35% for the game.
Scott enjoyed a very productive evening, going 6-10 from the field, including 3-4 from behind the arc, en route to a team-high 16 points. Inge added 15 points and handed out a game-high seven assists while Joines chipped in with 13 more. Rivera and Brown both grabbed nine rebounds to lead the squad.
With three games left in the regular season, the Mustangs still have an outside chance to finish in fourth place. They’ll continue that push on Saturday evening when they welcome No. 7 California Baptist to Bross Gym for a 5:30pm start.