In a defensive battle of undefeated teams in Murchison Gymnasium, #2 Westmont women’s basketball (4-0) put together more offense and produced more defensive stops to defeat Southern Oregon (4-1) by a score of 57-40.
“That was a really physical game against a team that has already proven this year to be really good, really tough,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “They are a national tournament level team. They have already beat #4 Carroll (Mont.) and Menlo. We knew they would be taking it to us. They are well coached and disciplined and they are united in a system that they all buy into.
“For the second game in a row, our defense came through for us. We played tough and gritty against a very physical team. I am proud of our player’s efforts.”
Points came slowly in the first quarter with the Raiders leading 6-5 at the midway point. However, the Warriors produced an 8-0 run in the balance of the opening frame to take a 13-6 lead headed into the second quarter. Stefanie Berberabe (14 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) connected on a lay-up and followed it up with a step-back three. Paula Graichen (9 points, 4 rebounds) added a free throw and then a layup to complete the run.
“I thought that Paula had a phenomenal game for us off the bench – not just scoring but also her presence defensively was really good for us. She made a lot of big plays.”
The Raiders charged back early in the second quarter with a 7-0 run that was sparked by a 3-pointer by Mallory Williams, tying the game at 13. Graichen regained the lead for the Warriors on a layup after receiving a lob pass from Berberabe that left the freshman all alone under the basket.
Southern Oregon tied the game again on a pair of free throws by Kami Walk (11 points, 7 rebounds). It would be the last tie of the game.
Westmont closed out the quarter on a 12-2 run that started with another three by Berberabe. Laila Saenz (13 points) continued the run with a 3-pointer of her own. Then Kate Goostrey added three when she was fouled on an acrobatic layup as she drove the lane. The run concluded on a pair of free throws by Destiny Okonkwo and another by Goosetrey.
“Kate had a solid game with a lot of toughness plays,” noted Moore..
Up 27-17 headed into the third quarter, Westmont used a 14-4 run to go up by 20 (41-21). Okonkwo started the second half with a layup, then Sydney Brown (4 points, 4 rebounds) added a pair of free throws followed by a layup. Saenz hit another three and then scored on a jumper before Goostrey made a free throw and scored on a layup.
However, the Raiders responded with an 11-2 run of their own, pulling to within 11 (43-32) at the end of the third.
Westmont turned things around at the start of the final frame with a 10-0 run on field goals by Sage Kramer, Berberabe, Saenz and two by Gaichen, taking their largest lead of the game (53-32). In 18 minutes of play, Kramer would tally four steals and a team-high eight rebounds. The 21-point margin proved to be too much for the Raiders to overcome.
“They make so much happen off of their defense,” said Moore of the Warriors’ opponent. “For the most part, we responded. Obviously, we had more turnovers than we are used to having. In the second half, specifically, we were able to take care of the ball and able to outrebound them. We got back to the things we were forced out of in the first half.”
Westmont won the battle of the boards 42-31 and enjoyed an 11-4 advantage on second-chance points. They also produced 13 steals to Southern Oregon’s 6. The Warriors defense held the Raiders to just 12 field goals.
This week, Westmont begins Golden State Athletic Conference play with a pair of home games. On Thursday, the Warriors will host Arizona Christian (0-2) at 5:30 p.m. Then on Saturday, Westmont will welcome Ottawa (Ariz.) (3-3) to Murchison Gymnasium. Saturday’s game is scheduled to tip-off at noon.
Ron Smith is the sports information director at Westmont College.