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Westmont Can’t Dig Out Against Biola Barrage

Comeback falls short, 72-66, as Warriors face crucial test to make GSAC tournament.

Up by eight points at halftime, Biola went on a 13-4 run to start the second half and had jumped out to a 44-27 lead just four minutes later. Westmont was unable to fully recover from the deficit and lost, 72-66, in La Mirada.

The Warriors (13-11, 7-9) did make it interesting as the game came to a conclusion.  Down 70-60 with a minute and 15 seconds remaining, junior Tyler Dutton (six points, two rebounds) reduced the Biola advantage to single digits when he made one of two free-throw attempts.  Thirty seconds later, sophomore Andrew Schmalbach (nine points, two rebounds), drained a three-pointer to make it a six-point game, 70-64.

Freshman forward Blake Bender then tied up the Eagles’ Danny Campbell and the Warriors were awarded the ball by virtue of the alternate possession arrow. After a time out by Biola (16-10, 8-8), the Warriors ran a set play that saw junior guard Colin Hofer lay the ball in the basket to pull Westmont to within four points, 70-66, with 26 seconds left.  But two free throws by Biola’s Danny Jones and three missed Westmont shots from beyond the arc kept the Warriors from narrowing the gap any further.

Senior guard Josh Ware led the Warriors with 12 points on five-of-six shooting from the floor. He also recorded three assists and two steals.  Freshman forward Dan Rasp notched 10 points, six rebounds and two assists.  Freshman center Evan Haines tallied eight points, five rebounds and two assists.

In other Golden State Athletic Conference play Tuesday, No. 5 Concordia (21-4, 12-4) clobbered No. 16 Point Loma Nazarene (18-8, 9-7), 104-72. No. 9 California Baptist (20-4, 12-4) crushed Hope International (1-22, 1-5), 89-41.  Concordia and Cal Baptist remained tied for first in the GSAC standings. Vanguard (17-7, 11-5), an 85-75 winner over San Diego Christian (5-19, 2-14), and Azusa Pacific (18-8, 11-5), which defeated Fresno Pacific (17-10, 8-9), 68-57, remain tied for third place, a game back of the leaders.

Point Loma is in fifth place, a game ahead of Biola. Seventh-place Fresno Pacific trails Biola by a half-game and leads The Master’s (13-12, 7-8) by percentage points.  Westmont is in ninth place, a half-game behind The Master’s, which hosts Cal Baptist on Thursday.

With four games remaining in the regular season, the Warriors have their work cut out for them. To advance to the GSAC postseason tournament, Westmont must finish among the top eight teams.  Westmont hosts Point Loma on Saturday, then plays Concordia in Irvine on Feb. 28.  The Warriors finish up conference play with home games against Hope International and The Master’s on March 1 and 3, respectively.

Securing a tournament appearance could come down to the final game with The Master’s. Westmont has qualified for post-season play every year for the past 32 years, beginning with the 1975-76 season.

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

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