A game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer allowed the UC Merced Bobcats (4-2) to defeat Westmont (8-2) on Wednesday afternoon, ultimately capping off a 68-67 win for the road team. In a back-and-forth contest that saw two lead changes in the final 65 seconds, it was the Bobcats who stole one from the Warriors in the game’s final seconds.
The individual story of the day belonged to the greatest 3-point shooter in UC Merced history, Mason Westlake. Coming into the season, the All-CalPac guard was already the leading 3-point shooter in both program and conference history. In Santa Barbara on Wednesday, the senior added to his legacy with a 33-point performance that included the dagger as time expired.
With Westmont leading 67-65 with 1.4 seconds remaining, the Bobcats inbounded the ball in the far corner into the hands of Westlake, who had knocked down six of his first nine attempts from beyond the arc. Fading away from the basket and with a hand in his face, Westlake’s shot still found the bottom of the rim for the game-winner, sending the Warriors into a bittersweet holiday.
“Even if Westlake didn’t make that shot, we would’ve snuck away with a win that we really didn’t deserve,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “I didn’t think we came out with the level of desire, passion, and heart that it takes for us to be good. We’re a team that needs to be collectively focused on giving a passionate effort and that wasn’t there tonight.
“It resulted in our lowest scoring game of the year, and when we don’t play with intensity of defense, it’s going to affect our offense. That’s what happened today.”
Both team’s possessed leads for lengthy amounts of time during the contest, with Westmont leading by as many as eight points with 7:00 remaining in the first half. Down the stretch in the first half, however, Westlake made six shots from beyond the arc to spark a late run, giving the Bobcats a 38-35 lead going into the locker room.
In the second half, UC Merced led by as many as eight points, with Westmont hanging around by a couple possessions as the game entered its final minutes. With 3:07 remaining, Cade Roth landed a 3-pointer to trim the deficit down to one. For a moment, the swing of momentum seemed reminiscent of last week’s schedule, when Roth made a handful of game-saving threes to beat both Arizona Christian and Ottawa (Ariz.)
Two minutes later, with the Warriors down one, Jalen Townsell hit another clutch 3-pointer, this one putting Westmont up 67-65 with 1:05 remaining. Then, with only 37 seconds remaining Anthony McIntyre grabbed a rebound off a stop, and the Warriors carried the ball down court with about a five-second difference between shot and game clock.
Rather than foul the Warriors, UC Merced elected to bet on their ability to both get a stop and a make with only a handful of seconds remaining. The bet proved to be the right one, as the shot clock hit zero when Roth threw up a three-pointer that never hit the rim. After the shot clock violation, the Bobcats inbounded the ball twice before being met with a foul by the Warriors, who had a pair of fouls to give.
On the third inbound attempt, the Bobcats successfully found Westlake in the far corner. Then, the day’s leading scorer brought an end to the game with his seventh conversion from beyond the arc.
“It’s unfortunate to lose on a last shot, but that is not where we lost the game,” reflected Boucher. “We lost that game in the first 39 minutes and 58 seconds, not in the final 1.4 seconds. At the end of the day, we need to play with passion and intensity.
“We came out flat and casual, and tonight, we learned the reality that anyone can beat anyone on any given day.”
The Warriors return to action a week from tonight when they head to Santa Clarita for a rivalry contest against The Master’s. On Wednesday, November 30, the Mustangs and the Warriors will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. Links to live coverage will be available on the Westmont Athletics website.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.