Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 1:53 am | Fair 57º

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College Basketball

Westmont Men Survive Firestorm, Defeat Arizona Christian, 92-91

(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) Westmont Men’s Basketball (19-4, 9-1 GSAC) survived the Firestorm of Arizona Christian (14-10, 2-8 GSAC) this evening, winning by a score of 92-91. Kyle Scalmanini’s late-game heroics helped the Warriors finish erasing a 12-point deficit.

Westmont head coach John Moore said, “I thought we played much better in the second half. Our defense was not particularly stellar tonight. We need to be a better defensive team than what we showed tonight. This was an offensive game – if you like offense, this was a fun game to watch.”

In the first half, the largest lead by either team was seven points. Westmont led by as much as three early in the half – that was also their largest lead of the game. Arizona Christian led by as much as seven on multiple occasions in the half.

Both teams shot nearly identical in the first half – Westmont at 46.9 percent and Arizona Christian at 46.7 percent from the floor. The Firestorm led the Warriors 39-36 heading into halftime.

Westmont finished the game with 21 assists to only eight turnovers. Moore said, “I thought Olisa Nwachie was really special tonight in that particular area. He had six assists to zero turnovers. It felt like every assist of his led to a dunk to David Gunn.”

Nwachie finished with 23 points and went 9-11 from the charity line. Moore added, “Last year, Olisa was closer to a 50 percent free throw shooter. Now he’s one of the best in the conference.”

The same first-half script continued for the first 10 minutes of the second half – with 11:15 remaining Westmont trailed 64-66. The Firestorm turned up their offensive heat over the next three minutes. Callum Lawson scored seven of Arizona Christian’s next 14 points to Westmont’s four – putting the Warriors down by 12 with 7:55 remaining.

Lawson finished with a game-high 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Firestorm. Sam Finley added 20 of his own for Arizona Christian as well.

Westmont immediately responded with a 12-4 run of its own. Scalmanini hit a three, Jerry Karczewski laid the ball in, Nwachie hit two free throws, and David Gunn finished the run with a layup and a 3-pointer. This shrunk the deficit to four points with the score at 80-84 with 3:54 remaining – then Scalmanini took over.

After a made free throw by the Firestorm, Scalmanini assisted on Nwachie’s dunk. He then converted a layup – that was followed by a layup by Lawson. Scalmanini knocked down a jumper from the right elbow brining the Warriors within one at 86-87 with 1:57 remaining.

Gunn was fouled and went one of two from the line – tying the game at 87. Finley responded with two made free throws of his own to put Arizona Christian up by two with 51 seconds left. Scalmanini drove to the rim, hit the shot and got fouled in the process –he would miss the free throw.

Arizona Christian’s possession was cut short as Scalmanini stole the ball and was fouled in the open court. The Warriors were in the double bonus and he went one for two from the line – giving Westmont their first lead of the half at 90-89 with 29 seconds remaining.

Finley had the ball for the Firestorm, was dribbling to his right and was sent to the line due to a foul by Karczewski. Finley hit both free throws bringing the score to 90-91 in favor of the Firestorm with 23 seconds left.

Scalmanini came down with the ball and attacked the rim, again making a right-handed layup and getting fouled in the process – he would miss the free throw but put the Warriors up by one with 11 seconds on the clock.

The Firestorm looked as if they were going to respond with a game winning layup, but Lawson’s left-handed try rolled off the rim and Gunn grabbed the rebound as the buzzer rang in a victory for the Warriors.

Moore said, “I think Kyle Scalmanini has an amazing ability to be poised at times when the game’s on the line. He made two and-ones. He got the last basket to win the game. He’s strong, powerful, and finishes plays that are hard plays to finish.

"I think it’s interesting that the game ended on a defensive stop when throughout the game we weren’t particularly good at that.

“My assistant, Larry Knapp, said, ‘good teams are able to find a way to win games like this.’ I think moving forward, it’s really about surviving – and we did. We survived tonight on a ball that dribbled off the rim that I won’t forget for a long time,” finished Moore.

Westmont returns to Murchison Gymnasium Saturday to face San Diego Christian at 7:30 p.m.

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