A three by Gabriella Stoll in the middle of the fourth quarter helped the No. 4 Westmont women’s basketball team tie the game up against The Master’s, capping off an 8-2 run.
Then, the No. 1 team in the NAIA took over.
The Mustangs scored 13 of the final 17 points to defeat the Warriors 64-55 inside Murchison Gymnasium Saturday night, handing Westmont its first loss in Golden State Athletic Conference play and snapping its eight-game winning streak.
“They came out like the No. 1 team in the nation. They are No. 1 for a reason,” Westmont senior guard/forward Maud Ranger said.
“It’s a super frustrating loss though. We had a great game plan for them but they are a really tough team and ultimately scored more than us.”
The Master’s remains undefeated on the season, improving to 19-0 overall and 7-0 in GSAC play.
Overall, the Warriors (13-3, 6-1) had no answer for The Master’s Stephanie Soares. The 6-6 sophomore totaled 25 points and collected 24 rebounds, both game-highs, to dominate the contest.
For context, Westmont as a team only collected 27 boards Saturday.
“We knew coming in she was going to get some points and some rebounds, that is inevitable but one thing we have to focus on (for next time) is staying physical with her and keeping pace with our gameplan for her,” Ranger said.
Another thing that hurt the Warriors was Ranger getting into foul trouble early. That led to her playing just 24 minutes Saturday, well below her team-high season average of 33.8 minutes per game.
Ranger was limited to just two points of 1-for-3 shooting and, despite being the leading rebounder in the GSAC through conference play coming into the contest, she collected just five rebounds.
Coming into the game, Westmont coach Kirsten Moore said in order for her Warriors to win, they would need to score big shots from the perimeter.
They did that in the first half, knocking down 6-of-16 (37.5%) shots from 3-point range.
In fact, in the first quarter alone, the Warriors did a lot of their damage from the outside. Their first three makes of the game were from 3-point range as they trailed 10-9 early.
Tough play from forward Kaitlin Larson inside, scoring two baskets inside the arc, allowed Westmont to lead 13-12 after the first quarter.
A three from junior guard Lauren Tsuneishi, who finished 3-of-9 from deep for the game, netting nine points, tied the score 21-21 with 4:28 remaining in the second frame.
Later, a three from Stoll, who came into this match red-hot from deep hitting 4-of-5 shots from deep, with five seconds remaining before the half, suddenly gave the Warriors a 29-28 lead after 16 minutes of play.
At the start of the second half, both teams began getting into a shootout, but it was Westmont who began pulling away.
Up 41-38, Westmont had an opportunity to get a defensive stop and try to extend its lead. Instead, Soares pulled down two offensive rebounds and then put in a layup to bring her team back within two.
That make kickstarted a 9-0 run for the Mustangs that by the end of it gave them a 47-41 lead with 9:22 remaining in the final period.
The Warriors would counter with a 10-4 run, capped off by Stoll’s three to tie the game up at 51-all.
From there, it wasn’t Soares who made the big jumpers down the stretch for The Master’s, it was the other role players who came up big.
A three from senior Hannah Ostrom put the Mustangs back in front, 54-51. Moments later, a jumper from the left elbow by senior guard Sabrina Thompson gave The Master’s a five-point advantage,
Ostrom finished with 12 points while Thompson added seven. Thompson was also clutch down the stretch from the charity stripe, making 3-of-4 shots from the free-throw line to put The Master’s on top, 59-53 with 54 seconds remaining.
“It was almost like we were so worried about her (Soares) that we left some other kids open and they made some big plays,” Moore said.
From there, Westmont could not mount a comeback and was outscored 13-4 over the final 4:45.
For the game, the Warriors finished 9-for-31 (29%) from deep and 21-of-60 (35%) from the field, both well below their season average.
Iyree Jarrett was Westmont’s leading scorer with 15 points but shot just 27% (5-for-18) from the field.
“The shots just didn’t fall in the fourth like we needed them too and we didn’t get as good of looks but overall, I am proud of how we fought until the very end,” Moore said.
“They outsize us in every position considerably and I thought we showed a lot of scrap and fight tonight but just didn’t have enough shots down the stretch.”
Overall, Moore’s message to the team is to move on from the loss as quickly as possible. Westmont still has 12 games this season, 11 of them being conference contests.
“We cannot get discouraged from this, we will come back and make it a little tougher next time. Hopefully, there are some things we could learn from this and we just have to pull together and believe we could win every game,” Moore said.
For Ranger, Saturday’s loss being to the No. 1 team in the NAIA made no difference to her. She is only focused on the next match.
“I am personally frustrated (after that loss). It doesn’t matter (who you lose to), it’s still a loss, but this loss is just giving me more fire and I hope our team is fired up to come back in February and just beat them at home,” Ranger said.