Coming off an intense and emotional win at The Master’s last Saturday, the Westmont women’s basketball team was one win away from capturing at least a share of the Golden State Athletic Conference title.
The Warriors wasted no time accomplishing the task Thursday in its final home game of the regular season.
Westmont hosted San Diego Christian in its penultimate contest of the season and steamrolled the Hawks, 96-34, to clinch its share of the GSAC regular-season crown.
With the win, the Warriors are now set to host the conference tournament, which begins next Thursday. As the top seed, Westmont would not play until Friday at 3:30 p.m.
The 96 points scored by the Warriors Thursday night at Murchison Gymnasium were the second-most points scored in the single game by the team this season.
“It’s really exciting for this group. I think nobody really expected this of us this year, especially after Sydney Brown went down with her injury and for this group to rally together, find new roles and step up in different ways for each other and really mesh to a point where we could win our conference in a year that our conference has three top-six teams is a testament to their hard work,” Westmont coach Kirsten Moore said.
“We have really good synergy and we’re definitely better as a whole than we are as the sum of our parts and we just play so well together.”
With it being Senior Night, the Warriors celebrated one of their key parts, Maud Ranger.
Ranger, the team’s lone senior, switched from being a guard in the early season to playing more of a post role for a team whose average height is 5-5.
That never stopped her from pulling down rebounds, and it didn’t stop her Thursday, as Ranger pulled down a game-high 17 rebounds. It was her 14th time this season pulling down double-digit boards and the 17 was just two shy of her season-high mark of 19 against Hope International.
“I’m just super grateful for everything that I’ve been given here. I told my team I know they were celebrating me, but ultimately I’m just celebrating them. This night wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for them and if it wasn’t for this school and what it has done for me and so I am super grateful,” Ranger said.
Ranger admitted before Thursday’s game she could feel the nerves kicking in. She said she texted teammate Lauren Tsuneishi asking her for help because she felt so “emotional.”
Once the game started, however, she was locked in and focused.
“Once you step on the court, you just kind of forget. That’s how basketball is, it’s an outlet,” Ranger said.
Ranger tallied eight points in the Warriors 62-point victory at home and added one assist and one steal.
With 1:09 remaining in the contest, Moore subbed out Ranger, giving the senior the opportunity to leave the court with a standing ovation filled with applause.
“Those are my fans, my loyal fans and I was just very happy to see everyone who came and people support our team. It was such a big moment and I was so happy,” Ranger said with a wide smile.
Another thing motivating Ranger was the fact that a Westmont win guaranteed her at least one more home contest at Murchison Gym.
“We just earned her the right to come back and play more on her home court so that was probably the biggest gift we could give her,” Moore said with a laugh.
Given that Westmont only has eight players on its roster, six of which are key rotational pieces, Moore was quick to acknowledge what Ranger has meant to her and to her teammates for stepping up.
“Maud has just been the epitome of what we care about in our program from her work ethic to her team-first mentality. She embodies those things, she’s so tough mentally, physically, and she’s just really the heart and soul of this team,” Moore said.
“Every one of her teammates absolutely loves her and for us to play the way we did tonight I think was just really exciting.”
Westmont never trailed on Thursday and led by double digits from the 1:51 mark of the first quarter until the end of the contest. The Warriors led 50-13 at the break.
For the game, Westmont shot an outstanding 56.3% from the floor and 50% from deep.
Junior guard Iyree Jarrett led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-11 shooting, while Stefanie Berberabe added 17 on 8-of-10 shooting from the floor. Six players scored in double figures for the Warriors.
“We are not done after tonight. We still have more to do and I think we are peaking at the right time and we are excited,” Moore said.
For Ranger, she knows the end of her basketball career is near but has confidence that her team has one big run left in the tank.
“I get chills every time I think about it. My life doesn’t make much sense without basketball but we still have some winning to do and I am excited to see it,” Ranger said.
“A perfect end would be to beat Hope, win a GSAC title and then reach our potential in the national tournament. We’re a very good team and I have so much faith that we can go very far.”
Westmont closes its season at Hope International Saturday for a 7 p.m. contest.