FULLERTON — The Westmont men’s basketball team put up a valiant effort in the second half, but came up short in Fullerton on Saturday night. In the end, the Warriors (14-10, 4-10) were unable to get over the hump against #18 Hope International (18-6, 11-4), as they fell to the Royals 69-62.
“I was proud of the determination we showed in the second half,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “Hope at one point held a 14 point lead, and we fought back to have a lead at one point. To do that against a top-25 team in the nation, on their home court, takes guts.”
Jared Brown had the hot hand in the second half, and led the Warriors comeback charge with 15 points, but ultimately, the Warriors were unable to overcome their 17 turnovers in Saturday’s defeat.
The Warriors committed 17 turnovers that led to 20 points for the Royals, while also allowing 11 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points for the opposition.
“We are going to take pride in cleaning up our turnovers heading into a couple home games this week,” offered Boucher.
After the Royals opened up the game with consecutive buckets, the Warriors did not tie up the contest until the 11:47 mark in the first half. After Ajay Singh’s layup knotted the game at 13, Cly Griffith Jr. drained a three, and Jalen Townsell converted a layup.
While the club’s continued to trade offensive blows, the Warriors found themselves leading 18-15, which would ultimately be their largest lead of the night.
Following Townsell’s layup, Hope International closed out the first half by outscoring Westmont 18-7, which led the Royals to take a 33-25 lead into intermission.
At the halfway point, Westmont had already committed 10 turnovers that led to 13 points for the Royals.
Westmont did not score for the final 90 seconds of the first half, and then did not score for the first three-plus minutes of the second. By the time the Warriors scored in the second half, Hope International had stretched their lead to double-digits at 39-25.
The Royals kept their advantage consistently in double-digits for the first seven minutes of the second period, before consecutive threes from Brown cut the deficit to 42-35.
Brown then hit another 3-pointer to make it a two-possession game at 44-38, officially kick-starting Westmont’s most threatening run.
“I was proud to see Jared have one of his best halves of the season,” noted Boucher. “Not only offensively, but he did a fabulous job guarding Garcia.”
Down eight, the Warriors held the Royals scoreless for three minutes, as Brown and Griffith along with Nate Meithof continued making shots. With 9:33 to play, a jumper from Meithof cut the lead to 46-45. Less than a minute later, Meithof drilled a three that knotted the game at 48.
With 7:06 to play, Singh converted on a three-point attempt, putting Westmont up 51-50 for the first time in the second half. Unfortunately, for the Warriors, they led for only 32 seconds during the period.
Westmont fell down 59-56, but with 3:38 to play, Jalen Townsell converted a 3-pointer to tie the contest at 59. However, after a bucket from Josh Powell-Davis on the other end, the Royals went ahead for good, beginning with their 61-59 advantage.
After a free throw from Griffith pulled the club within one, Westmont’s next three possessions resulted in a pair of turnovers and then missed a 3-pointer. Following the three empty possessions, the Royals possessed a 65-60 advantage with just 38 seconds remaining.
The Royals made their free throws down the stretch, and ultimately stretched their lead to seven points by the final buzzer.
“These losses have been brutal”, admitted Boucher, “but we are refusing to give up. We are determined to improve and grow closer together every day.”
With less than three weeks until the GSAC Tournament, the Warriors have four more chances in the regular season to get ready for postseason play. The club hits the court next on Thursday night in Santa Barbara, when they host Vanguard at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., when Westmont hosts Life Pacific, the club will celebrate senior night before playing their final two conference games on the road.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.