The Westmont men’s basketball team capped a wonderful 2019 with its 14th straight victory on Tuesday, beating Park, Ariz., 90-79, on the final day of the 44th annual Tom Byron Classic at Murchison Gym.
It was a banner year for the Warriors. Besides a perfect 14-0 mark to start the 2019-20 season, they ended the 2018-19 campaign with their fifth straight appearance in the NAIA National Tournament, the longest streak in program history.
“It was a very good year and this team has been one of the wonderful surprises of the new year,” said Westmont head coach John Moore. “I know they’re almost two separate basketball years, finishing off with a different team back in Kansas City and then coming into the new year with a lot of question marks.
“To see how these guys have molded and blended so well together in a short period of time, is a great indication of sacrifice and their willingness to be unselfish. This team has been very unselfish and I think the unselfishness has paid off in our 14-0 start to the season.”
Of the 30 made baskets against Park, the Warriors had assists on 22 of them. Abram Carrasco led the way with eight and Cade Roth had seven.
It was the Carrasco and Justin Bessard show in the early going, as the former Pima Community College teammates combined for two-thirds of Westmont’s points in the first half with Carrasco’s 17 and Bessard’s 13.
“The Pima connection really played well today,” said Moore. “Bram (Carrasco) especially was superb in the first half. He had nine of our first 14 points and really was outstanding.”
Hunter Sipe got the Warriors going at the beginning of the second half with a lay-in and a corner three. Park got as close as two points after answering Sipe’s triple with a layup, but a 9-0 Westmont run restored the Warriors’ double-digit lead, 59-48.
“In the second half our defense was much better,” said Moore. “That 9-0 run boosted our confidence back up to where it’s been.”
Westmont was led in scoring by Carrasco (26 points) and Bessard (23 points). Sipe (15 points) and Roth (10 points) also scored in double figures, as Carrasco, Sipe, and Roth reached double digits in both games of the 44th Annual Tom Byron Classic.
Carrasco was named Tournament MVP, while Sipe and Bessard were also named to the All-Tournament Team. Tim Soares (The Master’s), Darryl McDowell-White (The Master’s), and Brett Layton (Calgary) were the other All-Tournament Team selections.
Westmont will begin the new year on Thursday against crosstown foe and NCAA Division I UC Santa Barbara, who have won nine of its past 10 games. Tip-off in the Thunderdome is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
“It’s always a fun rivalry,” said Moore. “We need to do what men’s soccer does with the Bryant & Sons Cup. We need to have something along those lines, just to make it special every year. We’d love to play them every single year and I think we should. It’s great for the community.”