The 22nd-ranked Westmont men’s basketball team continued its perfect start to the season with a 70-69 road victory over No. 10 Arizona Christian, improving to 10-0 overall and 2-0 in the GSAC.
While holding a one-point lead, Westmont missed a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left, giving Arizona Christian a chance to potentially win the game. But the Warriors’ defense prevented the Firestorm from scoring and Westmont held on for the narrow victory.
“Tristan Lloyd came up with a huge tip out with 1.4 seconds left that kept them from getting a shot off,” said Westmont coach John Moore.
To begin the game, Arizona Christian scored the first six points, but Westmont rallied off the next seven points to take its first lead. The Warriors extended their first half advantage to as many as five, at 32-27 with 4:17 remaining in the period, but the Firestorm went on a 12-3 run to end the half and take a 39-35 lead into the break.
After Arizona Christian opened the second half with a made field goal, a Jared Brown 3-pointer punctuated a 19-2 Westmont run, as the Warriors took a 54-43 lead with 12:56 left.
The Warriors maintained their advantage until the Firestorm tied up the game at 68-68 with 1:44 left in regulation. The game didn’t remain tied for long, as Noah Fernando’s tip-in with 1:29 left restored Westmont’s lead and proved to be the game-winning basket.
Arizona Christian drew a foul with 44 seconds left and sank the first free throw, but missed the second, preserving Westmont’s lead.
That missed free throw proved costly, as the Firestorm were unable to score for the remainder of the game.
“I’m very proud of our guys, our road Warriors,” said Moore, whose team improved to 4-0 on the road this season.
Westmont scored 35 points in each half, but shot much more efficiently in the second period. After only shooting 32.4% from the field in the first 20 minutes, the Warriors shot 54.2% in the second half. For the game, Westmont shot 41% overall and 34.5% from behind the arc, making 10 3-pointers, seven of which came in the first half.
The Warriors outrebounded the Firestorm, 40 to 35, turning that into a 10 to 5 advantage in second-chance points. Westmont also scored more points in the paint than Arizona Christian, 26 to 22.
Justin Bessard led the Warriors with 19 points and eight rebounds. Brown tallied 18 points on 7 for 12 shooting, including 4 for 8 from 3-point range. Fernando was the third Warrior to reach double figures, scoring 10 points.
After also defeating OUAZ (Ariz.) on Thursday night, Westmont is one of two GSAC teams that are 2-0 after the first weekend of conference play, along with #2 The Master’s.
Westmont returns home to play Vanguard, who is receiving votes in the latest NAIA Coaches’ Poll, on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.