The cold-shooting bug hit the Westmont women’s basketball team in the last 2:40 minutes of the fourth quarter, and the defending national champions were knocked out of the NAIA National Tournament in the Round 16 by Central Methodist (Mo.), 71-65, on Friday at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
Westmont (27-5), scored only two points in the last 2:43 after taking a 63-62 lead on a basket by Gabriella Stoll.
Arleighshya McElroy scored for Central Methodist to put the Eagles into the lead for good with 2:31 to go.
The score remained 64-63 until the 1:04 mark, when Daryna Bachkarova made two free throws to put Central Methodist ahead 66-63.
Laila Saenz missed a three-pointer for the Warriors with 50 seconds left and the Eagles grabbed the rebound.
McElroy was fouled and sank both free throws for a 68-63 advantage with 39 seconds left.
Westmont ended its scoring drought on two free throws by Stefanie Berberabe with 36 seconds to go, but the Warriors wouldn’t score again.
Central Methodist knocked down three of six free throws to seal the win and end Westmont’s season.
“I am really proud of the fight we have shown all year,” said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “We have battled all year. This has been a year of adversity from day one.
“I think we never lost our belief. Down the stretch, tonight, I thought we could still do it and I think our players thought we could still do it. We were one shot away from being in control of that game.”
Berberabe led the Warriors in scoring with 25 points, making nine of 13 from the field and six of nine from the free throw line. She also tallied four assists and three steals.
Iyree Jarrett put up 14 points and dished off six assists while Gabriella Stoll scored 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Destiny Okonkwo notched eight points and six rebounds. Kaitlin Larson led the team on the boards with nine.
“Everyone that was out there gave us good minutes,” said Moore. “Kaitlin was gritty on defense and gave us good leadership. Gabby gave us a huge scoring spark off the bench. When we had our three-post lineup, we were able to take advantage of some mismatches. She delivered and finished well.
“Destiny battled like crazy and Aleena (Cook) gave us a spark off the bench. Syd (Brown) got in foul trouble early but came back in and gave us important minutes.
“Iyree and Stef were relentless attacking the rim and had smart composure against their pressure. A lot of teams turn the ball over but I thought we handled their pressure.
“Our bench gave us tremendous energy tonight. While we were battling on the court, they were keeping our energy up.
“We just didn’t make shots and I thought we had a lot of good looks from the 3-point line. We just couldn’t get them to drop tonight.”