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College Basketball

Westmont Women Step Up in 4th Quarter, Rally Past Vanguard for GSAC Tourney Title

For the third year in a row, Westmont Women's Basketball won the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament Championship.

This year, the Warriors defeated No. 7-ranked Vanguard by a score of 48-46.

It was the fourth time the Warriors and Lions have matched up the conference tournament final. Both teams have now won twice with Westmont winning the last two.

"It was a really tough battle between two really good teams," said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. "My hope is that both teams can make deep runs in the national tournament and represent the GSAC well. I think this game prepared both teams for that"

Senior Lauren McCoy led the Warriors in scoring, rebounding and blocks with 17 points, six boards and four rejections. Sophomore Joy Krupa added 13 points, five rebounds, and four steals.

"It has been an ultimate year of resiliency," said senior Jae Ferrin. "No one outside of our locker room at the beginning of this season thought we could come back and have a good season after losing last year's seniors. It was supposed to be a build-up year. Then the fires and the floods came and everything could have been a big excuse to not do well. 

"We are just a tough and resilient group that stays together, fights together and has huge goals," continued Ferrin. "Being together and fighting for the same thing is the best part."

"It's been a blur," said McCoy reflecting on the season. "I don't know how we got here so quickly. It has been such as special season. The success we've had may not have been expected by most on the outside of our program before this season started. But our coaches knew, and we knew, and we had confidence in the pieces that were coming in."

Westmont was outscored 14-5 in the third quarter and trailed 37-30.

The Warriors turned things around in the fourth quarter.

"We know that we have the endurance to fight the fatigue and tiredness or mental exhaustion," said McCoy about her team's fourth-quarter performance. "When our backs are against the wall, you have to play a little more aggressive, you have to play all out every single possession. When you have a comfortable lead, you can play good defense without having to go for the blocked shot or the steal and play more under control. But when there is no other choice but to get that steal, but to get that blocked shot, then you have to do it."

"We switched up defenses in the fourth quarter and used a defense we haven't used against Vanguard all year," explained Moore. "When we needed it more in the fourth quarter, we were able to hold them to nine points. Without our defense tonight, we certainly would not have come out with the victory."

One minute into the fourth quarter, McCoy cut the deficit to five with a successful jumper. Two minutes and 45 seconds later, Krupa scored on a layup to make the score 37-34. Vanguard's Alyssa Durr knocked down a three to give it a six-point advantage (40-34) with 5:25 to play in regulation."

Warrior defense stiffened and Vanguard suffered a couple of shot clock violations, allowing the Warriors to cut the lead to two on a jumpers by McCoy and Krupa.

However, with 3:23 to play, Durr struck again from long distance, making the scoreboard read 43-38 with 3:23 remaining.

Ferrin scored on the Warriors next possession, cutting the lead to three. After Krupa came away with a steal, Lauren Tsuneishi scored her only points of the night on a 3-point bucket from the left wing, tying the game at 43.

"That was the confidence of a junior or a senior, not a freshman," said Ferrin of Tsuneishi's three. "She had such command and such confidence."

Once again, Vanguard responded with a three, this time from Victoria Chea, putting the Lions up 46-43 with 2:07 remaining. It proved to be Vanguard's final points.

A shot from Krupa went awry but McCoy claimed the offensive rebound and put the ball through the hoop to pull the Warriors within one (46-45). Neither team scored until less than 10 seconds remained on the scoreboard.

After a Warriors timeout, Krupa hit a step-back jumper in the paint, putting the Warriors up 47-46 with six seconds to play. 

After a Vanguard timeout that advanced the ball to the Lions' end of the court, Vanguard attempted to pass the ball from the sideline to a player under the basket. However, Krupa leapt up and intercepted the inbound passl, forcing Vanguard to commit a foul and send Krupa to the line.

"Joy played tackle football with the guys," said McCoy about Krupa high school career. "Most girls that play tackle football with the guys are the kicker, she was the wide receiver. You saw her athleticism come into play — that was her football background right there. It was a great, athletic, clean play where she put up both hands and intercepted the pass and got fouled. Those back-to-back plays showed her competitiveness."

After Krupa made one of two shots giving Westmont a 48-46 lead with 4.1 seconds remaining, Vanguard called another timeout and once again advanced the ball to the offensive end. This time, Westmont employed some coaching strategy to thwart the Lions' plans.

The Warriors had just one team foul in the fourth quarter and McCoy had just one personal foul in the game. After the ball was inbounded, McCoy fouled the Vanguard player, extinguishing one second from the clock. Vanguard inbounded again and McCoy fouled again and another second run off. 

"You have to use every advantage you can," said Moore. "I thought it was a good strategy, and it ended up working."

A final inbound pass ended in an off-balance shot and a Warrior rebound, securing the championship for the Warriors.

"It's been a crazy ride," said Haskin. "The growth that the seniors have had since senior year, and being able to win the tournament three years in a row, is something special. We had the experience, we had the composure and we had the poise. So, when the game was close and it looked like it wasn't going our way, even down the stretch, we trusted that when we put our scorers in the right position, they can attack and that we can lean on our defense to back up the scores that we make."

"Some of our Warriors alums that played for me organized and wrote letters to our current team," said Moore. "They let the players know that they have been praying for them as we went through the adversity we have had on campus this year and gave encouragement and advice. 

"One of the things one of the alums wrote was that because of what we have been through, there is no team in the NAIA that has had to learn to be more resilient and adaptable. She talked about how adaptability is a key to winning basketball games – being able to make adjustments and being able to stay with it when things don't go your way.

"To win both the regular season championship and the tournament championship is a testament to the work these ladies have put in," continued the coach. "I am so proud of the seniors for leading the way in that. This is their third GSAC Tournament championship in a row. They know how to win when it counts and they know what they need to do to have an opportunity to win – defend the way they do and play with passion every possession."

The NAIA National Tournament qualifiers, seeding and bracket will be announced on Wednesday.

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