Westmont Men’s Basketball (16-10, 9-8) is officially headed to the postseason after defeating the Menlo Oaks (16-11, 7-10) on Thursday night by a score of 88-77. Heading into tonight, Westmont was one game ahead of the Oaks for the sixth and final spot in the GSAC Tournament.
With tonight’s win, the Warriors have secured the conference’s final bid, and are now penciled in to compete for the GSAC Tournament Championship next weekend in Fullerton.
“We’re playing the best basketball we’ve played all year,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “It’s exciting. At the end of the season, that’s what everybody wants to be able to say.”
The Warriors were led by the heroic efforts of Anthony McIntyre and Tone Patton Sr., who each scored 24 and 18 points, respectively. McIntyre hit a handful of back-breaking shots down the stretch, and also grabbed a pair of steals and four rebounds.
“Back at Menlo, their big men really controlled the paint defensively,” noted Boucher. “Tonight, Tone pulled them out early, and was able to hit a couple three’s. He gave us an offensive surge early.
“In Anthony’s case, he was frustrated at halftime. He really rallied himself, and in the end, he put together one of the most special second halves that he’s had all year.”
The Warriors also received clutch play off the bench from Kyler Warren, Zeke Viuhkola, and Cly Griffith Jr. who contributed with eight, seven, and seven points each. Combined, the trio off the bench converted eight of 13 field goal attempts.
“I’m so proud of Kyler,” began Boucher, “The way our team is built, it can be anybody’s night, and tonight, it was Kyler’s night. For Cly, a couple months ago he was spotty off the bench, and now, he’s been a huge surge of energy off the bench.
“Zeke has done a great job of just continuing to improve throughout the year. If Zeke is out there, he will find ways to help us win.
“When we have our bench come in and make plays, it gets everyone excited and it almost feels like a basket is worth more than two points.”
Elsewhere, Cade Roth added in 11 points, and Amir Davis added nine points to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.
It took until the final minutes of action for the Warriors to pull away, as the Oaks fought hard to keep their season alive. In the first half, the Oaks had their biggest momentum swing of the game when they turned a four-point deficit into a five-point lead with 9:36 to play.
Following the nine-point swing Boucher called a timeout, and out of the timeout, the Warriors threw down three transition dunks in less than a minute, reclaiming the lead and showcasing the tenacity that has turned their season around.
Menlo briefly re-took the lead with 16:31 remaining in the second half, but less than a minute later Davis put Westmont back up with a layup to make it a 45-43 game. From that point on, the Oaks never again led in the contest.
Westmont led by as many as 10 in the middle of the second half, but as the clock winded down and multiple Warriors got into foul trouble, the Oaks found themselves back in the game down six. Then, with 1:48 remaining, McIntyre drilled one of his team-high four 3-pointers, putting Westmont back up nine with the finish line in sight.
Following McIntyre’s three the Warriors made six consecutive free throws, putting the game on ice as the clock winded down. After falling to 5-8 in conference play two weeks ago, the Warriors rattled off their fourth win in a row to save their season, earning them the final spot in the GSAC Tournament.
“After losing to San Diego Christian, it felt like an uphill battle,” reflected Boucher. “There was really nothing to say. We prayed, had a break, and we left. Since then, seeing where we are now, it just shows the character and perseverance of our guys.
“These guys have battled through a lot. Dayshone got hurt in our tenth practice, and they rallied from that. We’ve taken some really tough losses in a tough GSAC, but still, we’ve battled.
“Everybody knew the stakes coming into tonight, so we didn’t have to talk about it. We spent more time prepping on Menlo than we have any team all year, because we knew what was at stake. There was certain focus and determination from this group all week long.
“Our guys played free, aggressive, and confident during a time where there was a lot of pressure. I am really proud of this team for what they’ve done to get to this point.”
Westmont concludes the regular season on Saturday afternoon, when they host Jessup at 2:00 p.m. Ahead of tip-off, Westmont will honor their four seniors, Cade Roth, Cly Griffith Jr., Tone Patton Sr. and Kyler Warren.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.