Mustangs Pull One Out

Ella Joines’ three-pointer with 30 seconds left in the second overtime put The Master’s College in front to stay and the Mustangs pulled out an exhausting 76-74, double-overtime thriller over visiting Fresno Pacific Tuesday evening in Bross Gym.

The win snapped the team’s two-game losing skid and gave the Mustangs (8-7 overall, 1-2 GSAC) their first conference win of the season.

Joines’ three-ball was vindication of her long-range prowess which took a hit against the Sunbirds.  The senior guard missed her first six shots from behind the arc before draining one in the first extra period.  However, her second overtime trifecta was the really big one and was part of a decisive 8-0 run that put the Mustangs ahead for good.

A Zoe Scott trey at the 4:06 mark of the second extra period vaulted the Mustangs in front 66-65 but the Sunbirds used a 7-2 spurt to grab a 72-68 lead with 1:50 left to play.  However, a Scott jumper and a Lena Rivera free throw ignited the burst that Joines capped off with a pair of free tosses with 10 ticks left on the clock.

The Mustangs had to rally to force that second overtime, too.  In the first extra period, they went without a point for the first 3:40 of play before a Scott jumper sliced the deficit to 60-58.  However, a pair of Jenay Herring free tosses with 33 seconds showing on the clock extended the advantage back to four points.

But, Joines finally came through from long range, hitting the three-ball that pulled the Mustangs to within one, 62-61.  Keri Stephanoff converted one of two from the line for the Sunbirds and then Rivera tallied the tying basket with eight seconds left to play, leaving both squads and the fans drained.

One didn’t have to look at the stat sheet to realize how poor of a shooting evening it turned out to be for both squads.  In regulation, the Mustangs made just 28% of their shots, including a horrific 0-16 showing from behind the arc.  The Sunbirds weren’t much better, converting at a 35.5% clip overall, and going 5-24 from long range.

Fueled by the Mustangs’ poor shooting, the Sunbirds flew away to a 12-6 in the first five minutes of the game as talented point guard Jeany Herring tallied half of her team’s points.

However, the Mustangs raced back into the game despite a scoring drought of over three minutes.  With the Sunbirds suffering through an even longer time (5:28) without a point, the Mustangs drew to within one (12-11) on a Millie Rivera charity toss at the 10:57 mark.

But, the Mustangs couldn’t quite catch the visitors as Fresno Pacific snapped its cold streak with six consecutive points to go up 18-11 with 7:59 remaining in the opening half.  A Herring trey with 4:53 left kept the advantage (21-14) at seven points before the Mustangs closed the half with a rush.

Spurred by Kaylynn Martin’s layup and the strong inside play of Lindsey Levanen, the Mustangs ripped off six straight points, closing to 21-20 on a Levanen layup with 2:20 remaining.  The Sunbirds responded with four consecutive points, including two free throws by Herring, to regain their composure and went to the break up 25-22.

Over the opening 20 minutes, the Mustangs shot 21.6% (8-37) from the floor and missed all 10 of their attempts from behind the arc.  The Sunbirds were just a tad better, hitting at a 31% (10-32) clip from the field, including 1-14 from three-point country.

Although they still couldn’t find the range from behind the arc in the second half, either, they did improve from 20 feet and in.  Still, they didn’t catch the Sunbirds until two free throws by Lena Rivera with 12:37 left in regulation gave them their first lead (40-38) of the evening.

The Sunbirds did catch the Mustangs three times over the next seven minutes but couldn’t pull ahead until a Kayla Clement three-pointer moved them back in front, 51-50, with 4:57 left.

It took all of one defensive stop for the Mustangs to respond as senior Morgan Schwegler canned a pair of free throws 36 seconds later to ease her team ahead.  The Sunbirds caught the Mustangs at 52 on a Herring free throw but Levanen matched that with 2:41 remaining to move the Mustangs ahead 53-52.

A Whitney Best free throw gave the Mustangs a two-point edge less than 30 seconds later but Brandi Blackwell knotted the game at 54 on a layup with 1:23 left to play.

It stayed that way until Kristen Huff canned two free throws at the 56-second mark but the two-point lead was short-lived as Herring equaled that at the other end just nine seconds later, forcing the first overtime of what turned out to be a very long evening.

Joines led three Mustangs in double figures, tallying 12 points.  Scott added 11 more and Rivera notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.  Best, who left the game with an injury, played a gutty game, tallying nine points to go with 10 rebounds.

With their first conference win put safely away, the Mustangs now go on the road for two straight GSAC games, starting at Hope International this Saturday evening.