The Westmont College women’s basketball roster is getting smaller just as the stakes are getting bigger.
The Warriors (13-2, 6-0 GSAC) found themselves down to just six players last week when they extended their winning streak to eight games with victories at Menlo and William Jessup. A showdown with undefeated The Masters looms this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Murchison Gym.
“I am coaching the little Engine That Could,” coach Kirsten Moore said during Monday’s Athletic Round Table press luncheon at Harry’s Plaza Café. “We had some injuries early on to our leading rebounder (Sydney Brown) and some other players, and had some interesting health things happening on our team.
“We had another injury this last week to one of our best players … We went into a really tough road trip with just six players against two teams that went to the national tournament last year, and somehow we kept finding a way to win.”
Without the 6-foot Brown, the Warriors’ lineup averages just 5-feet, 5-inches in height.
“But we lead the nation in three-point shooting – we don’t miss open shots – and we lead the nation and assist-to-turnover ratio,” Moore pointed out. “I’m really proud of how smart they play.”
Against Jessup, Iyree Jarrett got into foul trouble, forcing Westmont to stick with just five players through much of the first half.
“We went into halftime down, but the second half was just a clinic in dissecting a defense,” Moore said. “We found a way to get mismatches. Iyree attacked the rim, scored like 10 straight points at the rim.
“Then they started helping in and she started kicking out. We hit 7-for-9 from the three-point line in the third quarter and extended this huge lead and finished out with a sweep on the road with a limited roster.”
She expects The Masters to be ranked No. 1 when the NAIA poll is released this week. The Warriors were No. 4 in the most recent poll.
“They have a 6-6 girl that should have gone to UCLA or Texas or wherever she wanted,” Moore said. “She isn’t just tall, she can shoot the three, she sweeps and finishes right and left. She can do it all.
“She’s one of the best players to have ever played in the NAIA, and she’s only a sophomore, unfortunately.
“Last year we did beat them two out of three times, including for the tournament championship. This year we’ve got them coming to us. We’re both undefeated in conference so it’s a game for first place at 5:30.”
Westmont’s men (17-1, 6-0 GSAC) also has a lot at stake against The Masters (14-3, 4-2) in Saturday night’s 7:30 p.m. nightcap. But the Warriors are also one of the hottest teams in college basketball.
“I think we have more wins right now than anybody else in the NAIA,” coach John Moore said.
He noted that point guard Abram Carrasco has a good shot at winning his second-straight GSAC Player of the Week Award.
“Three of the last four games, he’s had 20 points,” Moore pointed out. “He had 21 in the second half the other night when we were down by nine. He was just phenomenal.
“He played a great game against UCSB, too.”
The Warriors are on a roll despite having played five of their last six games on the road.
“We’ve been traveling Warriors, but it’ll be good to get home,” he said. “We have six of our next eight at home.”
UCSB coach Matt Macedo is excited about a roster that includes Fischer Basham, a second-team All-Big West Conference swimmer last year in the 200 freestyle.
“He’s one of our senior captains who swims the sprint freestyle and breaststroke from time to time,” he said. “We got another boy qualified for the Olympic Trials which will be in June in Omaha, so that makes six Gauchos.
“We hope to have more after some of the upcoming winter and spring long course meets.”
UCSB’s men (5-0, 2-0 Big West) and women (4-1, 2-0) swept UNLV in a dual meet last weekend.
Westmont ranks 14th in the NAIA in its first year of women’s swimming.
“Coach Jill Jones Lin is doing a fantastic job,” sports information director Ron Smith said.
He noted that the Warriors have qualified teams for all five of the relay events in the upcoming NAIA National Championships.
“Morgan Bienias has qualified for four national cuts, Rian Lewandowski for three, and Bailey Lemmon for two,” Smith said. “We’re really excited to see that kind of success early in this program’s history.”