Westmont College men’s basketball coach John Moore voiced his own version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet during Monday’s Athletic Round Table press luncheon, asking the audience one of those “to be or not to be” questions.
“To foul or not to foul?” Moore queried.
His Warriors held a three-point lead with seven seconds remaining at Menlo College, knowing full well that the Oaks would try a three-point shot to force overtime. The audience at Harry’s Plaza Café voted to foul, which is what Westmont attempted to do.
“Instead we blocked a shot,” Moore revealed. “Not bad … Now there’s 1.7 seconds left, ball out of bounds, on the sidelines.
“Foul? No foul?”
This time, Westmont opted to not foul, knowing it could happen while Menlo was in the act of shooting and result in three free throws.
“What I said was, ‘Everybody stand at the three-point line and make sure you’re guarding somebody close to you,’” Moore said. “There were three guys guarding the guy who shot the ball a little outside the three-point line … and he made it.”
That sling and arrow of outrageous fortune led to a 97-91 defeat in overtime, dropping the Warriors (13-7, 7-5 Golden State Athletic Conference) from second placed to fifth in the league race.
“With that said, we have four of our next six at home, three of them against ranked opponents, starting this Saturday against Vanguard, who is the top team in our league right now,” Moore said.
Westmont’s women (17-6, 10-3 GSAC) have six freshmen among their top eight players, but “they aren’t playing like freshmen any more,” Coach Kirsten Moore said. Her 14th-ranked Warriors will take a five-game winning streak into this week’s games, which include a crucial showdown with No. 8 Vanguard at Murchison Gym on Saturday.
“We had as hard a preseason schedule as we’ve ever had,” Moore said. “We traveled up to Montana and played a bunch of ranked teams up there. The team from Texas that we beat in the Final Four, we had them come out and play us.
“We had a number of losses on our schedule, at least more than we’re used to, but it’s all starting to come together now. We’re seeing a level that we needed them to be at by the end of February and heading into March.”
The biggest difference has come on defense, a part of the game that is usually the most difficult to master for players just out of high school, Moore said.
“We’ve had three games in a row where we’ve held teams to 20 to 30 points below their scoring average for the year,” she pointed out. “Two of those games were on the road at William Jessup and Menlo, and both of them have been ranked.”
She’s looking forward to Saturday’s game against Vanguard, a team that beat Westmont in November.
“Most of my team had only played a month of college basketball when we played them,” Moore said. “Looking back on film, I think we’re so drastically improved. I have a lot of hope for that game. I just know it’s going to be a battle with them. It always is.”
UCSB’s women (4-16, 1-6 Big West Conference) are looking to snap a four-game losing streak when they return home to face UC Davis on Thursday.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in our girls,” assistant coach Nneka Enemkpali said. “We’re really, really young and have a lot of injuries here and there.”
Five incoming recruits should improve the Gauchos’ prospects for next season, she added.
They include “Two bigs who are 6-foot-3 and above, which makes me happy as the post coach,” Enemkpali said. “We have a point guard from Kansas City, Mo., who is really agile and quick, and who will bring a real ability to pass the ball.
“We have two combo guards, one from Sacramento and another one from Houston, who will be a transfer. We’re really excited about what we’ve got coming up and look forward to the next two games.”
WOMEN’S WATER POLO
The immediate future looks bright for the Gauchos, who went 5-0 on a road trip to Arizona, knocking off No. 7 Arizona State, while improving their record to 9-1.
A little bit of coach Serela Kay’s past — senior captain Shannon Moran — has been partly responsible for the fast start.
“I was coaching club and had her as part of my 12-and-under Speedo Cup team,” said Kay, who was living in the Bay Area at the time. “Who would’ve known that, years later, she’d be playing for me at UCSB?
“Shannon is vying to be one of the Golden Eagle winners (scholar-athlete of the year for Gaucho water polo) … She has worked her way into being our starting defender. That wasn’t even her position when she came in as a freshman. It just shows her selfless character and work ethic, and I’m so proud of Shannon of how far she has come.”
The spring sports season is just around the corner, even if the official start of spring is still more than six weeks away. San Marcos softball coach Jeff Swann noted that the Royals’ first game against Newbury Park on Feb. 13 is “two weeks sooner than usual.”
San Marcos’ season went later than normal the last two seasons, with the Royals advancing to the CIF-Southern Section Division 4 finals both years.
Swann introduced two of the veterans — sophomore Allie Fryklund and junior Savannah Tait — who slugged nearly half of the team’s school-record 31 home runs last season.
“Allie was a freshman last year and had eight home runs and was our No. 2 pitcher,” Swann pointed out. “With our No. 1 pitcher gone, she’s going to be carrying a load for us this year.
“She got a lot of really good experience last year, worked through a couple of tough games, and I think she matured a lot. She’s going to be a big part of our season this year.”
Tait hit seven homers as a sophomore last season, he added.
“Savannah is so athletic, she flies all over the field,” Swann said. “She’s a third baseman but we have her at short because she’s so athletic. She can cover so much ground, never makes an error — or rarely — and she’s our No. 2 hitter and just crushes the ball.
“I look for a lot from these two to lead us this year, and I’m looking for a fun season.”