After going into halftime with a 49-40 advantage, the Westmont men’s basketball team (9-3, 2-3 GSAC) was unable to hold off first-place Hope International (11-3, 5-1) as the Warriors dropped their third consecutive game Saturday by a score of 95-89.
The Warriors were outscored 55-40 in the second half as the Royals stormed back to snap a three-game losing streak against Westmont, dating back to last season.
“It was a brutal one,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “We played really well in the first half, then Hope did a good job of playing to their strengths in the second half.”
Cade Roth had one of his best performances of the season, leading the club with 27 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Nate Meithof contributed with 21 points of his own, while Jared Brown added 18 as well.
“Cade played so hard today,” said Boucher. “Coming off a big effort against Vanguard, I was really proud of Cade and the way he battled on both ends of the floor. We continue to lean on him in times when we need a play on both sides of the floor.”
Back on Thursday night in Costa Mesa, just two Warriors went into halftime with more than two points as the club trailed by nearly twenty.
Saturday night in Montecito, three men were in double figures going into intermission, with another having scored eight points as well.
Four of Roth’s five 3-pointers came during the first half, with his 17 points leading the club to a 49-40 lead after the first 20 minutes of play. After a layup by Kyler Warren tied up the game at 34 with 5:19 left in the half, the Warriors closed out the first period on a 15-6 run, with 11 of Roth’s points coming during the stretch.
However, in the second half, Westmont’s lead slowly started to dissipate, and the Royals finally took their first lead of the half with 8:50 to go in a 64-63 game. From there, the Warriors were left to play catch up, and never quite got over the hump.
Twice in the final two minutes Westmont tied things up with electrifying 3-pointers, first from Jalen Townsell and secondly from Cade Roth. However, a trio of dagger 3-pointers from Hope International’s Charles Neal put Westmont’s hopes to rest, as the club was unable to get key stops following their momentum-shifting shots.
The most gut-wrenching of shots came in the final minute, after Hope’s Josh Powell-Davis partially blocked a layup attempt from Meithof with Westmont trailing 88-86. Then, after letting the shot clock wind down to zero, Neal buried a 3-pointer with 24 seconds to play to give the Royals a five point advantage, and all but end the contest.
Neal, who had a team-high 23 points for Hope International, was part of a Royals bench that contributed with 34 points. Westmont’s bench, which had just two players on Saturday, scored two points in total during the contest.
“Our goal was to take away their three-point attempts from Neal and Anthony Garcia,” noted Boucher. “We did a good job of that in the first half, but then in the second half it ended up being the difference in the game. When Garcia got that rebound and kicked it out to Neal for the three that put them up five, it changed the game.
“I wanted us to feel this one, because we shouldn’t shy away from it. I don’t think there’s any covering up the way this one feels. It’s a long season and the GSAC is loaded. Tonight, we played the best team in the league thus far with, essentially, six players. That’s a good sign. Moving forward, it’s a long season and we can get better.”
While the Warriors don’t return to GSAC play until after the New Year, the club will play a trio of non-conference games between now and then. First on the schedule is UC Merced, who the club will square off against on Monday in Northern California.
Then, the club will play Pepperdine in Malibu on Dec. 23, before returning home to play Saint Katherine on the penultimate night of the year.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.