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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 9:18 pm | Fair 50º

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College Basketball

Westmont Women Down Arizona Christian to Avenge Prior Loss

(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) In a game of alternating runs, #6 Westmont Women's Basketball (17-5, 9-1) scored 11 of the final 15 points to claim a 65-62 Golden State Athletic Conference victory over #23 Arizona Christian (17-6, 6-4 GSAC). With the win, Westmont avenged their only conference loss, a 70-69 affair in Phoenix last month.

The match-up was between the NAIA's third highest scoring team (Arizona Christian – 82.3 points per game) and the NAIA's third best defensive team (Westmont – 49.3 points allowed per game). While the teams met in the middle, the advantage went to the defensive team.

"Obviously, we are two evenly matched teams; both teams coming down to one possession," said Moore. "I'm proud of our players sticking with it."

The Warriors struggled in the first half, shooting 37.9 percent from the floor (11 of 29) and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc (2 of 7). The Firestorm, in the meantime, were, well, on fire from three-point range making seven of 11 for 63.6 percent.

"I thought we played a poor first half, to be honest," said Moore. "We seemed tentative, which hasn't been our norm this year. It was uncharacteristic of us. We talked about it and halftime. I'm proud of how we came out in the third quarter – a totally different team with focus and more of an attacking mentality. Our backs were against the wall and our players responded. We went from being passive to trying to dictate and be aggressive and be proactive and not regressive."

Westmont outscored Arizona Christian 20-11 in the third quarter. Maud Ranger (10 points) drained two three-point shots during a Warrior 14-7 run that gave the home team a 41-35 lead at the mid-point of the penultimate period. With 2:21 remaining in the third frame, Lauren Tsuneishi (14 points, 4 rebounds) had a 3-point attempt flirt with the rim before eventually falling off the hoop.

"I think that got Lauren started," said Moore.

Tsuneishi took two more long-range attempts in the third quarter, draining both to give Westmont a 47-42 lead heading into the final period.

"Lauren is an incredible shooter," said Moore. "Being a point guard and being a freshman, sometimes she doesn't assert herself as much she needs to. She really stepped up when we needed it tonight and knocked down some big shots."

A jumper by Morgan Haskin (10 points, 3 rebounds) to start the fourth quarter gave the Warriors a 49-42 advantage. However, the Firestorm scored the next four points on two free throws by Makayla Enders (25 points, 3 rebounds) and a jumper by NAIA leading-scorer Courtney Christmas (20 points, 5 rebounds). With 7:40 to play, Tsuneishi drained her third three of the game, putting the Warriors up 52-46.

On Arizona Christian's next possession, Lauren McCoy (14 points, 7 rebounds) posted up under the basket and took a charge by Christmas. It was Christmas' fourth foul, which prompted Firestorm head coach Odell Berry to remove Christmas from the game.

"McCoy has been playing phenomenally, but she had a tough first half," said Moore. "She responded great in the second half. She is always going to be a competitor and will do whatever is needed to help the team win. Stepping in defensively to take that charge was huge."

A layup by Jae Ferrin (9 points, 8 rebounds) gave the Warriors what would prove to be their largest lead of the game (54-46) with 7:05 remaining on the clock.

Unfortunately, it would be the last points Westmont would score for four and one-half minutes. The Firestorm, meanwhile, reeled off a 12-0 run to go up 58-54. With 3:39 to play.

With 2:32 remaining on the clock, Haskin broke Arizona Christian's streak with a jumper in the paint off a pass from Joy Krupa (5 points, 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks). On the Firestorm's subsequent possession, McCoy was guarding Enders above the three-point line when she pilfered the ball and drove to the hoop for a game-tying layup (58-58) with 2:10 to play.

"We had lost momentum at the point," said Moore. "Back-to-back buckets with her steal being the second one was really important."

After Krupa sank a couple of free throws to restore the lead to the Warriors, the Firebirds' Toni Davis (9 points, 4 rebounds) scored off an inbound play under the basket to tie the game at 60 with 49 seconds to go.

Westmont brought the ball down the floor and found Tsuneishi outside the arc. Tsuneishi's shot found nothing but net, putting Westmont on top 63-60 with 26.3 seconds remaining in regulation.

With 16 seconds to go, Christmas landed an acrobatic layup to pull the Firestorm within one (63-62). However, that was as close as Arizona Christian would get.

A foul by Enders sent Tsuneishi to the line where she calmly swished home both attempts to account for the final score.

With four games remaining in the GSAC regular season, Westmont will welcome San Diego Christian (7-17, 0-10) to Murchison Gymnasium on Saturday night. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.

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