When Westmont (12-7, 3-7 GSAC) lost to OUAZ (13-7, 4-6) on December 4, it started a streak of seven consecutive conference games that ended in disappointment for the Warriors. When the two met up again, this time in Santa Barbara on Thursday night, the Warriors were finally able to put the worst behind them.
After trailing by double-digits early on, the Warriors rallied to defeat OUAZ 83-71, earning the club their first win of 2022.
“This team has faced some serious adversity in the past month,” said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. “To go down by a deficit of that margin in the first half, it would have been really easy to pack it in and give up. I am so proud that our guys refused to give up, and then ended up pulling out the win.”
After being held to two points on five shots in the first half, Nate Meithof, the GSAC’s leading scorer, exploded for 21 second-half points to lead all scorers with 23. Jalen Townsell drained a trio of 3-pointers en route to a 15-point evening, while three more Warriors scored in double-digits as well.
The first six minutes could not have gone worse for the Warriors who fell down 17-4 after allowing six offensive rebounds before the chairs were warm. On their second possession of the night, the Spirit collected four rebounds and on their fifth attempt finally converted to begin their early run.
With 10:01 left in the first half, and Westmont trailing 24-12, the Warriors received a much-needed lift when Cly Griffith Jr. checked in for his Westmont debut. The Canadian guard drilled a 3-pointer in his first attempt in a Westmont uniform to pull the Warriors within single digits, and wake up the Murchison Gym crowd.
Griffith scored 10 points off the bench on four of five shooting from the field.
“Cly has been a really good addition to this team,” noted Boucher. “More than anything, our team has done a great job of embracing Cly.”
On the club’s very next possession, Townsell hit his first 3-pointer of the night. On the following trip down the court, Tyler Austin threw down a dunk in transition and let out a roar as the Warriors fully arrived in the ballgame.
Eventually, with under 20 seconds left in the half, Townsell converted his third 3-pointer of the half to finally tie the game up.
The two clubs entered the intermission knotted at 38.
“We decided to pull Nate at two fouls early in the first half,” reflected Boucher, “and then our bench came up huge. Jalen played great, Tyler played great, Sebastian played great, and they really held it down in the first half. It was great to see our guys go on a run and then to look down on the bench and see Nate cheering them on the way he did.”
A minute into the second half, Ajay Singh converted a layup to give the Warriors their first lead of the night. The most dangerous stretch of the second half came soon-after, when the Warriors went nearly four minutes without scoring.
After the Spirit reclaimed a 49-44 advantage, a free throw by Meithof followed by layups from Reynoso and Griffith tied the game at 49 with 12:56 to play.
With 10:34 left to play, Reynoso converted a free throw to put the Warriors up 54-53. Griffith followed up with a jumper on the club’s next possession, and then Austin once again capped off a Westmont run with another explosive finish at the rim, giving Westmont a two-possession lead at 58-54.
Austin, who along with Cade Roth is the longest tenured Warrior, scored 11 points off the bench.
“I am so proud of Tyler Austin,” began Boucher. “The box score does not show how big a game he had for us. He played so hard and came up with some huge finishes. I think he played the best game he’s ever played in a Westmont uniform.”
The final 10 minutes of action saw Meithof take over as the freshman scored 12 of his 23 points down the stretch while building his season scoring average to a GSAC-best 18.5 points per game.
“In the second half, Nate was the alpha,” stated Boucher. “For him to have zero turnovers while being that efficient in the second half was really a difference maker.”
With 4:57 to play, Meithof converted a layup to stretch Westmont’s lead to a then game-high eight points, and two minutes later he stretched it even further with a 3-pointer to make the score 74-65.
With 1:59 to play, Jared Brown, who scored 10 points and collected six rebounds, knocked down a jumper to give Westmont a game-high 11 point lead, and two minutes later, the club officially put their losing streak to rest.
“I was proud to see us gut this one out for a lot of reasons,” said Boucher. “We not only rallied back, but we took control of the second half and we showed a lot of heart down the stretch. Our Achilles heel has been our defense in the second half, and tonight we held them to 33 in the second half.
“Our guys got better today in an area they needed to get better at.”
The club returns to action on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. when they #8 host Arizona Christian inside Murchison Gym. Tickets are available on the Westmont Athletics website.