March 8, 2012
Box Score

SANTA CLARITA, Calif -- Basketball can be a game of mind-numbing extremes, taking teams on exhilarating runs and dropping them just as quickly into the depths of inexplicable scoring droughts.  The ability to make the most of the former while surviving the latter makes winners of teams.

Such was the case of The Master’s College Thursday evening as they experienced both but survived to beat Hope International 60-56 and earn a berth in the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) National Tournament next week in Winona Lake, Indiana.

Sparked by a 10-3 run over the final three minutes, the Mustangs improved to 19-14 with their second win in as many nights.

Down 53-50 to an outmanned but efficient Royal squad, the Mustangs tied the game on a Jon Hogan three-pointer and then went ahead on a similar shot from Leif Karlberg with 2:11 remaining, giving them the lead for good.  But, this game was far from over.

The Royals edged to within two points with a free throw on their next possession but a Karlberg driving layup with 59 seconds left extended the Mustang advantage to a game-high four points, 58-54.  Again, the Royals countered at the line, converting two more to halve the deficit.

But, the Royals, nowhere close to putting the Mustangs on the line and needing to do so to get the ball back, committed four fouls in the space of eight seconds to, finally, send Anthony Cammon to the stripe.  That’s where the senior All-GSAC performer quietly drained a pair of game-clinching free throws for the game’s final points.

It was a dynamic conclusion to a game in which the Mustangs appeared to be dead after a lackluster first half, one in which they shot just 32% from the field while watching the visitors surge to multiple double-digit leads and a 38-26 advantage at the half.

In stark contrast to the previous evening, the Mustangs had a difficult time finding the range in a frustrating first half.  After Devin Dyer opened the evening with a jumper, the Royals outscored the Mustangs 20-5 over the next nine minutes to open up a 20-7 lead with 10:55 left in the first half.  Much of that was due to 3-14 shooting in that stretch.

A Chris Patureau three-pointer, the squad’s second of the evening, put an end to the run and fueled a modest, 6-2 spurt that pulled the club within nine points (22-13) on a Casey Trujeque free throw at the 8:44 mark.

However, the Royals answered with a Steve Jurich layup on their next possession, extending the lead back into double figures where it stayed for the next 4½ minutes.  In fact, a Jordan Gipson charity toss with 5:16 remaining in the half lengthened the advantage to a game-high 14 points (27-13).

That didn’t last very long, though, as the Mustangs put together an 8-2 burst in just over a minute that pulled them within 29-21.  A Cammon jumper got the squad going and then Karlberg poured in consecutive three-balls, closing the Mustangs to within eight points at the 4:05 mark.

But, the Royals, who shot 45% from the field in the opening half, proved to be resilient as they closed the half with a 9-5 spurt for a 38-26 lead.  The Mustangs shot just 32% from the field, including a weak 4-14 mark from behind the arc.

That lack of accuracy changed, though, in a matter of six minutes in the second half as the Mustangs rolled a 16-2 run out of the locker room. Again, Cammon triggered the burst with a jumper and a three-pointer but he got plenty of help from Karlberg, whose layup with 14:39 remaining tied the game at 40, and Paul Brown, whose layup a minute later put the Mustangs ahead.

That set up a back-and-forth struggle over the next 10 minutes that featured five lead changes before Karlberg’s trey put the club ahead to stay.  Following a poor-shooting first half, the Mustangs improved to 47% in the second period while limiting Royals to 23% accuracy.

Karlberg, who buried five three-pointers and shot 8-13 overall, led all scorers with 21 points while Cammon was the only other Mustang in double figures, finishing with 13 points.

Now, the Mustangs prepare for the national tournament that starts on March 14 at Grace College.  Their first-round opponent will be announced soon.