The Westmont men’s basketball team remains in search of a momentum shift following Thursday night’s loss to the Vanguard Lions.
The Warriors (14-11, 4-11 GSAC) found themselves down by a single point in the final seconds and had one final shot to claim the evening.
However, as the buzzer sounded, the ball did not find its way into the basket, and Vanguard (16-10, 8-7 GSAC) defeated Westmont 76-75.
“This was another tough for us emotionally, because we are so close,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “While winning is always at the forefront of our focus, we remain focused on getting better each game.
“I thought we did that despite it being a painful loss.”
In the first half, the teams traded blows early without either getting much breathing room. The first run that caused either team to take a timeout was consecutive jumpers from Jared Brown and Ajay Singh that put the Warriors up 21-14 with 8:55 to play.
Out of the timeout, the Lions responded with a 13-2 run to take a 27-23 lead over the Warriors. During the run, Vanguard’s leading scorer, Garrett White, scored seven of his team-high 26 points.
After Vanguard took a 29-23 advantage, back-to-back threes from Brown and Tyler Austin knotted things at 29. The two sides split the final 14 points of the half to head into intermission in a 36-36 tie.
At halftime, Meithof and White, both top-five scorers in the conference, led their teams with 12 points each.
With 16:45 left to play, White hit a 3-pointer to give the Lions a 46-43 advantage. Meithof answered with a three of his own, and the leading scorers, same as the Lions and Warriors, refused to allow the other to pull away.
On the Lions’ next trip down the floor, White converted on another three-point attempt. Then, Cly Griffith Jr. dished the ball to a wide open Brown on the perimeter. Following his pass, Griffith jogged down the court with his hand in the air, assuming his teammate would drain the bucket.
Brown rewarded Griffith’s faith by knocking down the three, and tying the ballgame at 49.
There were a handful of moments down the stretch where the Warriors looked poised to win in front of their home crowd. For example, with 9:29 left to play, Meithof threw down one of the most-emphatic dunks of the season, giving the Warriors a 61-58 lead going into a Vanguard timeout.
During the timeout, the buzz from the student section never winded down, as Meithof’s energy proved to be contagious for a moment.
At one point, with 4:31 to play, Brown converted a 3-pointer to put Westmont up 73-68, their biggest lead of the second half. Then, with 2:48 to play, White hit the Lions’ second consecutive 3-pointer to give Vanguard a 74-73 lead, silencing a now-nervous home crowd.
Thirty seconds later, Jalen Townsell hit a pair of free throws to put the Warriors up 75-74. Unfortunately for the home team, they would not score again.
With 12 seconds to play, the Lions were forced to foul Brown and send him to the line for a one-and-one opportunity. Brown could not get the first free throw to fall, and the Lions regained possession before calling timeout.
On the ensuing play, Vanguard’s Isaac Davis put just-enough space between him and Meithof to hit a pull-up jumper, putting the road team up 76-75.
With 3.6 seconds left, the Warriors put the ball in the hands of Griffith. The transfer drove to the basket before taking a contested layup, and unfortunately for Westmont, he couldn’t get the shot to fall as the club dropped another game in the final moments.
“Our guys could have given up many times this season, but they refuse to,” Boucher said. “This will be another instance where we don’t.”
Brown led the Warriors with 20 points as he shot four of seven from beyond the arc. The guard also led the team with four assists. Meithof ultimately finished with 19 points, and, along with Griffith and Townsell, led the team with five rebounds.
“I thought Jared played about as hard as one could and hit some heroic shots down the stretch,” noted Boucher. “I am proud of how hard he defended too.”
The club will celebrate senior night when they take the court at 7:30 tonight. Life Pacific will be in town for the final home game of the season for Westmont men’s basketball and tickets are available on the athletics.westmont.edu.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.