Westmont suffered a 95-90 overtime loss to Menlo in a Golden State Athletic Conference men’s basketball game on Saturday at Murchison Gym, it’s fifth straight defeat in conference play.
The Warriors (11-5, 2-5) nearly won the game in regulation, but a three-point bucket by Menlo’s N’jai LeBlanc in the waning moments of the second half sent the game to overtime. LeBlanc scored 32 points.
“I thought that we controlled most of the game,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “They jumped out on us early and our guys battled back and gained the lead. We controlled the rest of the game until six seconds to go.”
With 7:28 to play in the second half, Roth drained a shot from long distance to give Westmont a 66-56 lead. The Oaks, however, scored on four unanswered layups to pull within two (64-62) with 5:22 to play. Two minutes later, a three by LeBlanc tied the game at 68.
After Nate Meithof and Menlo’s Corey Le’aupepe traded layups, Cade Roth put Westmont up by one (71-70) with 2:24 to go. Meithof pilfered the ball on the Oaks next possession, and Roth connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the game to give Westmont a 74-70 advantage.
The Oaks’ Harrison Bonner answered with a two-pointer, making it a one-point game (74-73).
Meithof missed a jumper on the Warriors’ ensuing possession and LeBlanc missed for Menlo. Roth grabbed the rebound and quickly threw the ball up court to Townsell who was streaking toward the basket. Jalen Townsell collected the ball and dunked the ball over LeBlanc to put Westmont up 76-73 with 46 seconds to play.
“With Ajay Singh out, Jalen stepped up and guarded bigger positions than he has been,” noted Boucher of the defensive effort of his 6-8 sophomore transfer from Sacramento State. “He was holding it down the middle of our two-three zone. I think Jalen has a much higher ceiling and that he isn’t close to it yet.”
On the Oaks’ next possession, Jared Brown stole the ball and was quickly fouled. Because it was only the Oaks’ sixth team foul, Westmont kept possession and passed the ball to Roth, who was then fouled by Khalid Price with 17.7 seconds to play.
Roth missed the front end of the one-and-one and Menlo’s Parker Haven (21 points, 24 rebounds) collected the rebound.
The Oaks dribbled into the front court before coach Brendan Rooney called timeout with 6.5 seconds remaining. Bonner inbounded the ball across the court to Haven, who quickly passed it to LeBlanc for an uncontested three-pointer to tie the score.
Brown quickly inbounded the ball to Roth who dribbled to midcourt before launching a buzzer beater that hit the rim but bounced out.
“That was brutal,” said Boucher of the final minute. “It was hard to rally in overtime. Our guys fought through the feeling of disappointment and battled hard, but ultimately Menlo controlled overtime.”
The Warriors never led in the five-minute bonus period, though they did tie the game at 83 apiece on a free throw by Kyler Warren with 2:11 to play.
Menlo scored the next four points and made 12 of 13 free throws in the overtime period to keep the Warriors at bay and secure the win.
Meithof scored 24 points to lead the Warriors. Roth had 22 points and six assists, Townsell tallied 14 points and grabbed six rebounds and Brown added 12 points and five assists.
Boucher felt the game was one Westmont should have won.
“This season feels daunting because we have lost so many close games in the past month,” he said. “However, our group, collectively, has a lot of room to improve. It feels like a long season, but we aren’t even half way through the league. So, I am proud of how our guys are battling. We are getting better and we are hoping to bounce back next week.”
The Warriors continue GSAC play next week with a road game at Life Pacific on Thursday evening and a home game against San Diego Christian on Saturday.