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College Basketball

Westmont Men Headed to Championship Game

(PHOENIX) For the first time since the Warriors won the GSAC Men's Basketball Tournament in 2000, Westmont Men's Basketball (24-6) will be returning to the championship game. The 14th-ranked Warriors earned the championship berth with a 90-83 win over #8 Hope International (25-5).

"It was a very good and hard-fought win," said Westmont head coach John Moore. "I thought our guys trusted each other and played with great resilience. This team is playing with the Westmont culture that was established with (former head coaches) Jack Siemens, Ron Mulder, Chet Kammerer and Jeff Crosby.

"Culture makes a difference. If you play with a culture of guys with great buy-in and who care deeply for each other, the trust factor is especially high. I think this team showed that tonight, going down 13-2 and fighting back."

Westmont's comeback started with a 3-point bucket by Sean Harman with 13:54 remaining in the first half. Harman led the team with 23 points, shooting 80 percent from the floor (8 of 10), including three of three from beyond the arc.

"That is a sign that you are pretty confident," said Moore of Harman's performance. "It is amazing what work ethic and leadership does for you. Those are the two things that Sean has in spades. He has grown into such a dynamic leader this year and I am very impressed."

Less than four minutes later, the Warriors cut the Royals' lead to four when Harman struck from 3-point range again to make the scored 22-18. Harman had eight points during the 16-9 run while David Gunn (14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Zac Jervis (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) added four apiece.

"David Gunn has had a bad foot and didn't have a chance to play against these guys last week," said Moore, referencing the Warriors loss in Fullerton. "He was instrumental in making free throws and making key plays for us."

With 9:35 to play, and the Royals leading 24-20, the game took an unfortunate turn. Hope International's Liam Hunt, the 2016-17 GSAC Player of the Year, rolled his ankle and came out of the game. He was unable to return.

"One of my favorite players in the GSAC is a guy by the name of Liam Hunt," noted Moore. "In two games that we played against him (this year), he has come down with ankle injuries. I feel so badly for him because he is such a delightful person. When he went down, it seemed like the air went out of them a little bit. When that happens, it is hard to recover because he is such a fine leader."

With 4:22 to play in the opening frame, the Warriors completed the comeback by tying the game at 34 on a pair of free throws by Harman. The Royals, responded with a layup by Kelly Barnes, but Kyle Scalmanini (15 points, 11 rebounds) knocked down a three with 3:55 to give Westmont its first lead of the night at 37-36. It was the start of a 12-1 run to end the first half. Westmont went into intermission with a 46-37 lead and never trailed again.

Westmont stretched the lead to 15 points on a jumper by Jerry Karczewski (14 points, 4 assists), giving Westmont a 74-59 advantage with 8:40 left in regulation. After a layup by Barnes, cut the deficit to 13, Harman scored off a pass from Gunn to make the score 76-61 with 8:12 to play.

The Royals, however, were not done. A 15-2 run over the next four minutes and 15 seconds pulled Hope International to within two points (78-76) with 3:57 to play. The Warriors started the scoring again with free throws from Scalmanini and Harman and a jumper by Karczewski to extend Westmont's lead to 82-76 with 2:18 to play.

Barnes would make one of two free throw attempts on the Royals next possession, but neither team would score again until Scalmanini hit a free throw with 54 seconds to play.

In the final minute of play, Westmont made eight of 10 free throws to keep the Royals at bay and earn the win.

Monday night, Westmont will take on top-ranked The Master's in the championship game. The Mustangs survived with a 106-101 win over Menlo in the other semifinal. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. MST/7:00 p.m. PST after the women's championship game between Westmont and Vanguard.

This year marks the first time both Westmont basketball teams will play in the tournament championship games in the same season.

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