After going into Christmas break on a four game losing streak, Westmont Men’s Basketball (9-5) returned with a vengeance on Friday night in Santa Barbara. On the final day of the 45th annual Tom Byron Classic, the Warriors closed out 2022 with an 84-57 win over the British Columbia Thunderbirds (11-6).

“Tonight’s energy came from our practices this week,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “We had some of our best practices of the year leading up to this one, and it shows a lot of character to do this coming off four tough ones.

“To go into Christmas break with that frustration and come back to work like we did, it says a lot about who this team is and who this team can be. Even though UBC is really good and has a size advantage, I came into tonight really confident.

“Our message to the guys coming into tonight was, ‘be who you’ve been all week’. They did that, and then turned it up even more.”

Zeke Viuhkola led the club with 17 points, while Anthony McIntyre and Tone Patton Sr. each had 13 of their own. Cade Roth had eight points to go along with a game-high 11 rebounds, while Cly Griffith Jr. had 10 points to go along seven rebounds.

As a squad, the Warriors snapped their slump from beyond the arc, making 14 of 30 three-point attempts. Viuhkola, who didn’t miss a three-point attempt in the first half, led the team with four conversions from downtown.

“Our bench was phenomenal,” applauded Boucher. “Our starters came out hot, but we got a huge boost from our bench to build on that early advantage. Cly had one of his better games he’s had all year, and to have that go along with what Zeke brought, it completely changes the shape of this team.

“Jalen Townsell, off the bench, played so well tonight, and so did Kyler Warren. Kyler created six points for us off a couple assists in the second. We are a different team when we all play for each other, and that’s what it looked like tonight.”

Defensively, Westmont held UBC to a 36.7% clip from the field (22-60) while forcing 18 turnovers. Westmont regained their rhythm in transition as well, where the team scored 29 points off of the Thunderbird’s turnovers. Overall, Westmont out-rebounded UBC 48-33.

“I can’t emphasize enough how different we look when we rebound,” offered Boucher. “To out-board them 48-33 with their size advantage just shows how we got after it tonight. Cade had 11, Cly had 7, and Tone had six. It just shows that as a group we made a collective effort. Those are extra points that add up.”

The Warriors pulled no punches early, when a Roth 3-pointer put Westmont up 11-2 going into UBC’s first timeout. Two minutes later, Griffith connected on a three of his own, and a minute after that, Roth finished a dunk in transition that sent the Warriors into another timeout leading 23-4.

At the 11:25 mark in the period, Viuhkola hit Westmont’s fourth three of the half, stretching the deficit to 25 at 29-4. With 1:40 left in the half, Viuhkola was at it again, this time converting his fourth 3-pointer in as many attempts to put Westmont up 54-24.

The second half saw the Thunderbirds play the Warriors closer, but still, Westmont comfortably maintained their advantage in the final period. At night’s end, Westmont reentered the win column with an 84-57 victory before the New Year’s holiday.

“Getting back into the win column is great,” nodded Boucher,” and I’m proud of the fact that we got better this week. Since we left the Utah Tech team room, we’ve talked about the fact each and every day, we have to get better.

“This week, we did get better every single day, and it led to a pretty good performance.”

The Warriors return to GSAC play next weekend in Northern California, when they battle both William Jessup and Menlo. On Thursday, January 5, Westmont will tip-off in Rocklin at 7:30 p.m., before beginning their Saturday contest at 2:00 p.m. in Atherton.

Links to live coverage for the road trip will be available on the Westmont Athletics website.