Less than four weeks ago, The Master’s College was 8-3 and riding high in the GSAC. The team’s best start since joining the GSAC had many thinking not just a high playoff berth but a possible conference championship.
Fast forward 25 days and the Mustangs have qualified for the GSAC Tournament again but were nowhere the top of the heap after a 1-6 finish left them limping into the postseason. The most recent loss came at the hands of Biola Saturday evening as a furious rally came up short, 78-71.
The regular-season ending loss left the Mustangs with a 9-9 GSAC record (17-13 overall), good enough for a sixth-place finish. It means that the Mustangs will return to La Mirada next Thursday evening (March 1) to take on the Eagles once again, this time in a first-round game of the GSAC Tournament.
It may not have to come to that if the Mustangs had come all the way back from a 21-point deficit in the final 13 minutes of play. After trailing 56-35, the Mustangs methodically chipped away at the Eagle lead, eventually closing to 71-69 on a Jon Hogan three-pointer with 1:02 left to play.
But, the Eagles responded with four straight free throws and after a Paul Brown layup, they iced the game with three more charity tosses. It put an end to an improbable rally that could have given the Mustangs some much-needed momentum heading into the postseason.
Instead, the Eagles finished what they had started. After taking a 33-27 halftime lead, the Eagles initiated the second half with a back-breaking 15-3 burst that proved to be decisive. When the margin hit 21 points with 13:06 remaining, the Mustangs appeared to be on life support.
But, they were alive and ready to rally. It started innocently with a 6-0 spurt, fueled and capped by iBrown, who had a layup and two free throws. Anthony Cammon added the other points with a layup.
However, that only closed the gap to 15 points and the Mustangs still found themselves down by the same margin (66-51) with just over six minutes remaining. That’s when they made another run that made things very interesting and very uncomfortable for the Eagles.
Devin Dyer’s jumper at the 6:11 mark got the Mustangs rolling. It triggered what turned into an 18-5 skein over the next five minutes that Hogan’s trifecta capped off. In between, Dyer stuck a three-ball while Leif Karlberg and Cammon added four points apiece as part of the run that just fell short.
In the first half, that threesome helped the Mustangs stay somewhat close, combining for 15 of the club’s 27 points. A Dyer layup at the 15:36 mark of the opening half gave the Mustangs a 7-6 lead and two minutes later, a Karlberg trey put the Mustangs back in front, 10-9.
But, that would be the Mustangs’ final lead of the evening as the Eagles ran off five straight points to go up 14-10. The Mustangs almost matched that spurt, tying the game at 14 on a Mike Harmon four-point play. The Eagles duplicated that to go ahead for good and then used an 11-4 burst in a 4:36 span to lengthen their advantage to 29-20 with 3:31 left in the half.
A Dyer layup and a Cammon trifecta forged a 5-0 run that pulled the club within four points but the Eagles took a 33-27 lead to the break.
Dyer, who had a huge second half with 13 points, paced the Mustangs with 17 points, going 6-9 from the field and 4-4 from the line. Cammon was right behind with 16 points and Karlberg contributed 10 more.