SANTEE — Like on many occasions in the past few weeks, Westmont’s opposition went on a game-changing run to take the lead in the second half. On Thursday night, however, the Westmont men’s basketball team (14-9, 4-9 GSAC) brushed aside a 15-0 run from San Diego Christian (5-18, 3-11), and came back with a vengeance to defeat the Hawks 78-55.
The Warriors shot only 11 3-pointers all night, including just three in the second half. Instead, on this occasion, Westmont bullied their way inside, and outscored San Diego Christian 44-20 in the paint, including 24-8 in the first half.
Nate Meithof led the way with 23 points as the GSAC’s leading scorer shot nine of 12 from the field. Meithof also led the club with seven rebounds and four steals while committing just one turnover. Jared Brown shot eight of 12 from the field in a 21 point effort, while also leading the club with three assists.
Before things got dicey at the beginning of the second-half, the Warriors controlled the game during much of the first period. Three minutes into the contest, Meithof and Brown drained consecutive 3-pointers that put the Warriors up 8-4, a lead they would not relinquish until after the intermission.
With 11 minutes left in the half, Sebastian Reynoso began to make his presence felt when he came up with a steal and hit a three in transition to put Westmont up 19-13. Two minutes later, after grabbing a rebound on the defensive end of the court, Reynoso converted on an acrobatic layup attempt to put Westmont up 23-13, their first double-digit lead of the night.
Two minutes later, after the Hawks got back within seven, Cly Griffith Jr. wore contact at the rim before throwing down a dunk for an and-one. Griffith, who scored 13 points off the bench, put Westmont up 26-16 with six minutes remaining in the first half.
The lead stayed at an even 10 going into halftime, with Westmont leading 37-27.
With 17:58 remaining in the game, Meithof made a layup to put Westmont up 39-29. Then, San Diego Christian threw an all-too-familiar punch at the Warriors. After Kyle Ruiz hit a three that pulled San Diego Christian back within seven, the Warriors proceeded to miss their next four shots and make two turnovers, giving the Hawks a window to close the gap over the next four-plus minutes.
With 13:38 to play, Josh O’Campo hit a three to cap off a 15-0 run from San Diego Christian, putting the Hawks up 44-39. However, the Warriors appeared determined to not let the second half get them the best of them on this occasion.
A three from Jalen Townsell stopped the bleeding to pull Westmont back within a possession at 44-42. Then, Meithof bulldozed his way to the basket, and drew a foul while converting a layup to tie the game at 44. Six consecutive made-free throws by Reynoso, Brown, and Meithof put Westmont up 50-46.
Then, with 8:11 remaining, Meithof once again drew contact before powering through to the basket. As the whistle blew and his shot fell, Meithof screamed towards the rooftops in celebration, before calmly converting the free throw to put Westmont up 53-46.
Forty-five seconds later, the Hawks tried flirting with fire again by challenging Meithof on a drive to the basket. For the third time in a five-minute span, San Diego Christian got burned as Meithof made the basket while being awarded an additional shot. On this occasion, Meithof flexed towards his own bench in celebration, and once again converted the free throw to make it 58-49.
Brown scored a layup on the club’s next possession, and over the final six minutes of action, San Diego Christian never got back within single digits.
After the Hawks took their 44-39 lead with 13:38 to play, the Warriors held them to 11 points for the rest of the contest.
Following Thursday’s win, the club will return to action on Saturday afternoon, when they head down to Fullerton to take on Hope International at 4 p.m. Links to video and live stats are available at athletics.westmont.edu.
Jacob Norling is the sports information assistant at Westmont College.