|Close Not Good Enough|
In a season marked by incredible disappointment, this win would have been sweet. Especially, at Westmont where The Master’s College has struggled mightily over the years. But, the Warriors, playing for a top four finish in the GSAC, had just enough at the end, squeaking by the Mustangs 77-76 Tuesday evening.
The narrow defeat kept the Mustangs from winning two in a row for the first time since December and dropped them to 10-17 overall and 3-14 in the GSAC. In the race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the upcoming GSAC Tournament, the Mustangs trail both Hope International and Vanguard by a game with three regular-season contests remaining.
Although the Mustangs never led over the final 14 minutes, they tied the game a couple of times and had chances to steal the win.
Their last lead (44-43) of the evening came on a Ronnie Dodd three-pointer with 15:16 left. But, the Warriors tore off six points in a row and built a pair (59-51, 61-53) of eight-point leads over the next 6½ minutes.
But, the Mustangs didn't fold as they scored nine of the next 11 points to pull within 63-62 at the 6:28 mark. Anthony Cammon fueled the run with a three-pointer, Joey Fuca sank a couple of free throws, and Devin Dyer finished it off with consecutive baskets.
Westmont answered with a Blake Bender three-point play but the Mustangs kept coming, tying it at 68 on another Cammon trifecta with 4:15 remaining. However, 20 seconds later, Westmont’s Preston Branson connected on a jumper and the Warriors stayed in front until Dyer knotted the game at 73 with 59 seconds left on the clock.
With the shot clock winding down on their next possession, the Warriors turned to Branson again who scored on a layup with 27 seconds remaining. The Mustangs turned it over the next trip down the court and Westmont turned that into two free throws and a four-point lead. That was just enough as Karlberg drilled a three-pointer with two ticks on the clock for the game’s final points.
Karlberg’s three-ball capped an impressive evening of outside shooting for the Mustangs who buried 12 of their 23 shot attempts (52%) from behind the arc while the Warriors were a paltry 1-8. But, even that wasn’t good enough to offset a sizzling second-half shooting display by the hosts, who shot 74% from the field over the final 20 minutes.
It took a little while for the Warriors to get going in the second half and the Mustangs took advantage of that, zipping ahead on a Paul Brown layup and then extending their lead to 46-41 on a Karlberg three-pointer with 16:32 remaining. But, then the Warriors started to find the mark and it was close the rest of the way.
Early on, the Mustangs grabbed the lead and were up 11-7 on a Dyer trey at the 16:03 mark. Westmont responded with a 6-0 spurt, holding the Mustangs scoreless for just over three minutes. They reclaimed the lead (14-13) on a Dodd layup at the 11:39 mark, setting up a back-and-forth trend until the Warriors tore off a 6-0 run to take a 23-19 advantage with 8:29 left.
They stayed in front for just over five minutes until a Brandon Bibbins’ three-pointer with 3:27 remaining vaulted the Mustangs back in front, 26-25. It stayed that way for nearly two minutes until Westmont’s Jordan Sachs tallied on a layup that eventually led to a 31-28 halftime lead.
Cammon, Karlberg, and Dyer shot the ball extremely well and finished with 17 points apiece. Cammon was 7-11 from the field, 3-6 from behind the arc. Dyer went 4-8 from the field and 7-8 from the line while Karlberg matched Dyer from the field, buried four trifectas, and went 5-5 from the line.
Still in the running for a playoff spot, the Mustangs continue their pursuit on Saturday evening when they host California Baptist in a 7:30pm start.