On a night when offense was in short supply, Westmont women’s basketball (26-4) found a way to advance in the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship Opening Round Tournament. The Warriors, who are a number one seeded in the overall 64-team tournament, defeated Westcliff (14-12) by a score of 62-47.
“We definitely struggled to get into an offensive rhythm today,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “It is in those times we have to keep relying on our defense and that came through for us tonight. That is what ended up getting us a little bit of momentum in the second half, creating some back-to-back turnovers, and loosing things up on the offensive end.”
Westmont’s defense was especially productive on the boards, where they collected 53 rebounds to 39 for Westcliff.
“It was a team effort on both ends of the floor,” noted Moore. “We did a great job on the boards. With us not shooting the ball very well, getting 22 offensive rebounds was a key for us.”
Sydney Brown notched a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while also posting three assists.
Stefanie Berberabe added another 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists and Gabriella Stoll contributed 10 points and eight rebounds.
The game remained tight throughout the first half with neither team gaining more than a six-point advantage. At halftime, Westmont held just a slim two-point lead (28-26).
Westmont began to pull away in the third quarter. Up 33-30 with seven minutes showing on the clock, the Warriors began a 15-2 run to go up 48-32. During that stretch, six different Warriors scored from the field with only one (Brown) contributing more than one bucket.
Entering the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead (48-36), Westmont went on a 9-0 run to go up 57-46. Stoll hit a pair of threes to get the Warrior run going. With less than six minutes to play, Westcliff was unable to overcome the 21-point deficit.
“We earned the right to play one more game and we will get dialed in on a game plan and hopefully come out with an attacking mindset tomorrow,” offered Moore.
“I was really excited about the fan turnout, given that it was spring break,” noted Moore. “We had some students stay around and had a great turnout from the community, for which I was really grateful. I hope people come out tomorrow and support us. It is a huge game for the opportunity to go back to Sioux City and the final site.”
Tomorrow at six o’clock, the Warriors will host Science and Arts of Oklahoma (23-9) who won the second semifinal game. The Drovers defeated the Bulldogs of Montana Western (15-14) to earn the right to match-up with the Warriors in what will be Westmont’s final home game of the year.
The team that prevails in Murchison Gymnasium tomorrow night will join the winners of the other 15 Opening Round Tournaments in Sioux City, Iowa to play the remaining game in the championship bracket beginning on March 17.
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.