FULLERTON — Ajay Singh had the best night of his senior campaign, and the Westmont men’s basketball team shot nearly 60% from the field as it got past Life Pacific 87-70 Wednesday in the first round of the GSAC Tournament.
In both periods of play, Westmont shot 17 of 29 from the field (58.7%), while holding Life Pacific under 40% on the night (25-64).
Singh, who shot 11 of 15 from the field, scored a game-high 25 points for Westmont. The 25-point performance was the senior’s highest total since opening night, and his first 20-point outing in two months.
“Ajay came out really steady offensively,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “It was really an extension from last game when he scored 15 points. When he comes out under control and decisive, he’s a tough matchup for a lot of teams. That showed tonight.”
GSAC Freshman of the Year, Nate Meithof, poured in 16 points for Westmont, while Cly Griffith Jr. added 15 points as well. Jalen Townsell was the fourth Westmont player in double figures as he contributed with 13 points. All four of Westmont’s players with double figures had multiple assists, and in total, Westmont tallied 15 dimes on the night.
“We had six guys with multiple assists,” noted Boucher. “In terms of not settling for shots, it was our best offensive showing in a long time. We were finding great shots, and it was really an extension from Saturday’s game against Jessup.”
Westmont never trailed in the game, beginning the night on a 6-0 run after baskets from Griffith, Singh and Meithof. Five minutes into the contest Life Pacific made it a one-point game at 9-8. After a layup from Singh put Westmont up 11-8, Life Pacific never got back within three.
Up seven with 13:23 left in the first half, Westmont went on a rare cold spell and did not score for nearly four minutes. Fortunately for the club, Life Pacific managed just one made free throw during the stretch. Townsell reopened the basket for Westmont with a 3-pointer at the 9:34 mark, putting Westmont up 21-12.
With 6:03 left in the first half, Life Pacific cut the deficit to 29-25. Then, Westmont responded with an 8-2 run capped off by a three from Cade Roth. Following the captain’s 3-pointer, Westmont had their first double-digit lead of the night at 37-27.
“Having Cade back makes everybody better,” Boucher said. “Cade makes our team and every individual better. He’s still getting his feet back from under him, but he’s been the ingredient that’s given us a kickstart.”
The clubs traded baskets for the rest of the first half, and Westmont carried a 45-36 lead into intermission. Singh shot five of seven in the first half and led Westmont with 11 points. Meithof, Griffith and Townsell each had eight points at the break.
Westmont opened up the final period with a layup from Singh, a 3-pointer from Townsell, and another bucket from Singh to claim a 52-39 lead with 17:17 to play. Three minutes later, Meithof connected on a three point attempt, putting Westmont up 60-44 going into a Life timeout.
From there, the Warriors were in control. With 10:27 to play, Singh put Westmont up 67-48, and two minutes later, he put Westmont up a game-high 21 points with yet another bucket in the paint. Life Pacific quickly scored to cut the deficit back within 20, but Singh promptly answered once again to put Westmont up 75-54 with 7:27 to play.
Westmont went cold once more down the stretch, allowing Life Pacific to get back within 12 with 3:22 to play. Then, a layup from Griffith and a 3-pointer from Jared Brown put Westmont up 17 with 2:30 left to play, all but ending Life’s last-minute push.
Two minutes and 30 seconds later, Westmont was officially headed to the GSAC Quarterfinals.
“After Saturday’s game, we said it was the best we moved the ball all season,” Boucher said Wednesday. “Tonight, we moved the ball even more.”
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.