Sure, the women’s basketball team from The Master’s College is going to the GSAC Tournament. But, it’s not exactly the way they wanted to qualify for the postseason, especially after Saturday evening’s regular-season finale loss at Biola, 73-58.
The defeat was the Mustangs’ fourth in their past five starts and coupled with a win by Fresno Pacific and a loss by Concordia, the club (12-18, 5-13 GSAC) wound up in eighth place in the conference, making it into the GSAC Tourney by the skin of their teeth. Their reward for qualifying will be a first-round game at No. 5 Westmont, the regular-season champion and the top seed for the tournament. That contest will be played on Wednesday in Santa Barbara.
Saturday evening’s game in La Mirada was highlighted by the Eagles’ ability to score inside while not allowing the Mustangs to do the same. They outscored the Mustangs 44-18 in the paint with center Adijat Adams going for 20 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
After falling behind early, the Mustangs grabbed one of their three leads on the evening when Lena Rivera put them ahead 5-4 on a layup. After the Eagles responded with a three-pointer, TMC’s Whitney Best duplicated that and the Mustangs had an 8-7 advantage.
Again, the hosts answered, tallying four straight points to take a three-point lead and they were still up 13-10 when the Mustangs rattled off a similar spurt, going up 14-13 on an Ella Joines’ trifecta with 9:10 left in the opening half.
But, that would be the final time the Mustangs would be on the right side of the scoreboard as the Eagles took off from there, reeling off seven consecutive points on the front end of an 18-5 burst that extended out to a 31-19 lead at the 1:54 mark. They would lead at halftime 35-22.
The Mustangs shot just 35% from the field over the opening 20 minutes while the Eagles finished at 47%.
That trend carried over into the second half, too, where the clubs went in opposite directions in their accuracy and on the scoreboard. In the second half, the Eagles improved to 50% from the field while the Mustangs managed just a 29% mark.
But, it wasn’t as one-sided as it appeared to be, at least for a while. The Mustangs fell behind 37-22 on an Adijat bucket 13 seconds into the second half but they pulled things together over the next four minutes, outscoring the Eagles 13-6 to chop the deficit to 43-35. Sophomore Lindsey Levanen and junior Kimmy Iverson led the charge in different ways with the former tallying six points from the free throw while the latter matched that total with a pair of three-balls.
That seemed to get the Eagles’ attention, though, as they retaliated with a 10-2 run in a 3½-minute window, producing the largest lead of the evening, 53-37, with 12:18 remaining in the game. The Mustangs never recovered as the Eagles matched that margin once more and never allowed the advantage to dip below 11 points the rest of the way.
In defeat, Lena Rivera and Iverson played remarkable basketball. Rivera notched her eighth double-double of the year with a 12-point, 11-rebound performance while Iverson drained five three-pointers on the way to a team-high 17 points. Levanen and Ella Joines joined those two in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Wednesday night’s game will tip off at 7:30pm in Santa Barbara with the winner advancing to Friday night’s semi-finals.