Despite being a bit shorthanded, the No. 2-ranked Westmont women’s basketball team (12-2, 5-1) returned to Golden State Athletic Conference play with a decisive 63-34 win over William Jessup (8-10, 3-3) on Thursday night in Murchison Gymnasium.
“Overall, I am very proud of my team tonight,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore after the game at the Montecito campus. “Like, probably, most teams in America right now, we have been battling adversity between injury and COVID and all the other things coming at us. We practiced with just six players this week and played with just eight. I was proud of the way our team responded, stepped up and stayed within ourselves.”
Senior guard Stefanie Berberabe, last year’s NAIA Player of the Year, tallied 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and three rebounds for Westmont. Sydney Brown notched her fifth double-double of the season, consisting of 12 points and 13 rebounds. She also tallied four blocks. Senior guard Iyree Jarrett tallied eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
Making just the second start of her collegiate career, sophomore forward Aleena Cook contributed 12 points and seven rebounds to the Warriors’ cause. Cook shot six of eight from the floor.
“Aleena gave us some great minutes tonight,” noted Moore. “She made great decisions offensively and was scoring and finishing at a high percentage. Syd was a beast on the boards and Stef and Iyree were as solid as ever.”
In her first collegiate start, freshman guard Haylie Dermer knocked down two 3-pointers to post six points and five rebounds. Playing in her first collegiate game, Ebun Kalejaiye gave sixteen important minutes to a thin Warrior squad.
“Haylee and Ebun did a great job stepping up, being ready, making some good plays and making good things happen out there,” praised Moore.
Both teams took a while to get their offenses rolling, but mid-way through the first quarter, Westmont had a 7-0 lead courtesy of a jumper by Cook, a layup by Berberabe and a three from Dermer.
After a long-range bucket by Jessup’s Joelyn Striton (8 points), Jarrett and Berberabe scored layups on back-to-back possessions to put the Warriors up 11-3. However, Jessup closed out the opening frame on a 7-2 run to pull within three (13-10) headed into the second period.
Up by just two (16-14) seven minutes into the second quarter, Westmont put together a 10-2 run to begin pulling away from the Warriors of Jessup. Brown started the run with a layup before Berberabe connected on two jumpers and Cook added two layups. At halftime, the Warriors held a 10-point advantage (28-18).
The third quarter belonged to the Warriors from Westmont who outscored Jessup 24-7. Brown and Destiny Okonkwo each scored six points during the penultimate period while Jarrett and Berberabe notched five.
Ahead 52-25 headed into the final frame, the Warriors from Montecito outpaced Jessup 11-9 to secure the victory.
“Today was a day in which people stepped up and helped us stay solid with what we do and who we are as we moved toward the goals we have for this year,” assessed Moore.
With a third of the GSAC season in the books, Westmont finds itself in second place, one game back of #8 The Master’s (17-0, 6-0) and one game ahead of third-place Hope International (13-2, 4-2).
Sixteenth-ranked Vanguard suffered a significant setback this week when COVID-19 protocols forced the Lions to forfeit their scheduled games at Ottawa (Ariz.) and Arizona Christian. As a result, Vanguard has fallen to seventh place in the conference standings at 3-4 (7-5 overall).
Westmont will continue its season this afternoon when it hosts the Oaks of Menlo (8-5, 3-3) as part of a basketball doubleheader at Murchison Gymnasium. The women’s teams will tip off at noon with the men following at two o’clock.
A limited number of tickets are available at athletics.westmont.edu/tickets Fans must show proof of vaccination to be admitted to the game, must wear masks and must remain socially distant.
Fans can also watch Saturday’s game online at athletics.westmont.edu/video or by tuning in on Apple TV, Android TV,
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.