Destiny Okonkwo tallied a career-high 24 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to notch the first double-double of her collegiate career. The sophomore post went nine of 13 from the field and added six free throws to help lead the #5 Warriors (15-3, 8-2 GSAC) to a 74-56 Golden State Athletic Conference win over Ottawa of Arizona (5-12, 2-8).
“Destiny has been on the verge of having a game like this for a while,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “She is gaining in confidence and seeing what she can do out there. She’s been such a great presence for us on defense with her strength and activity. To see her starting to get that confidence on the offensive end is awesome and will continue to help give our team balance.”
Westmont struggled in odd numbered quarters but took control of even number periods. Westmont fell behind 12-7, six minutes into the opening frame, but rallied with jumpers by Okonkwo and Gabriella Stoll (eight points, seven rebounds, four steals) and a free throw from Kaitlin Larson (seven points, four rebounds) to tie the score at 12 with 2:40 to play in the quarter. Neither team scored until OUAZ’s Sedona Anderson (11 points, four rebounds) knocked down a jumper in with 20 seconds to go, giving the Spirit a 14-12 lead at the end of the first 10 minutes of play.
Larson produced a jumper to start off the second period and tie the score at 14. However, Marlee Johnson connected on a three to put the Spirit back on top 17-14. With just over seven minutes before intermission, Stefanie Berberabe (16 points, five rebounds, four assists, three steals) recorded a field goal and sparked an 11-1 Warrior run, giving Westmont a 25-18 advantage. Two field goals by Okonkwo, and one each by Laila Sainz (seven points, five rebounds) and Stoll filled out the run.
Westmont outscored Ottawa 20-7 in the second quarter and held a 32-21 lead at halftime.
Okonkwo extended the Warrior lead to 13 (34-21) to start the quarter, but the Spirt outscored the warriors 20-15 in the period to cut Westmont advantage to six (47-41) headed into the final frame.
Westmont shot 66.7% from the field in the fourth quarter (eight of 12), and shot 78.6& from the charity stripe (11 of 14) to outpace Ottawa 27-15 to secure the win.
Jayla Jones cut the Warrior lead to four with a layup that made the score 51-47 with 8:17 to play. However, the Warriors engineered a 14-3 run over the next three minutes to go up 65-50. Okonkwo connected of three layup during the run while Iyree Jarrett (nine points, four assists) and Berberabe each added one.
Westmont’s ability to take care of the ball was one key to tonight’s victory. The Warriors committed just five turnovers while forcing 22 turnovers by the Spirit. That, and winning the rebounding battle 39-35, resulted in Westmont taking 13 more field goal attempts than Ottawa.
“We have had as rough a stretch of a month to try and navigate through as any month I’ve coached here at Westmont,” assessed Moore. “I think that was evident in our lack of rhythm most of the night tonight. I was really proud of our fourth quarter – the look in our players’ eyes and their determination to lock down and get it done when we needed to. That was good to see, now we need to build on that going forward as we work toward a complete roster out there.”
The Warriors next opportunity to take the floor comes on Saturday at noon when they are scheduled to host the Firestorm of Arizona Christian (15-6, 5-5) as part of a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader.