Rivera Rebounds Against Sea Lions

During a very disappointing season for the women’s basketball team of The Master’s College, one of the constants has been the play of Lena Rivera.  That consistency was on display again Saturday evening in San Diego where the junior guard posted a double-double and led the Mustangs to a 68-60 win over Pt. Loma Nazarene.

The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and lifted the Mustangs (12-16, 5-11 GSAC) into a tie with Fresno Pacific for seventh place in the conference standings.  With two games remaining in the regular season, the Mustangs are fighting for their playoff lives, leading ninth-place Concordia by one game with a chance to move higher.  The top eight finishers in the regular season qualify for the GSAC Tournament which starts the last week of February.

The Mustangs are in that position because of the play of Rivera and her teammates who bolted to an early lead, fell behind, rallied back in front and led throughout the entire second half en route to their second win of the season over the Sea Lions.

Rivera scored only 10 points but four of them were crucial at the end of the first half rallied back to take a lead they would never relinquish.  But, more importantly, was her play on the boards where she grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds, notching her third double-double of the season.

Sparked by a Zoe Scott three-pointer, the Mustangs tallied the game’s first five points and led by as many as seven points in the first seven minutes of play.  That 19-12 lead came on a Lindsey Levanen jumper at the 13:20 mark but it would be the last points the team would score for six minutes as the Sea Lions capitalized on the Mustang drought, reeling off 12 points in a row to take a 24-19 advantage.

A Rivera jumper broke the Sea Lion skein and triggered a 7-0 burst that she finished off with a free throw, putting the Mustangs up 26-24 with 5:16 left in the half.  Although the Sea Lions knotted the score on their next possession, the Mustangs never trailed again as Scott broke the tie with a three-pointer and Rivera added consecutive buckets, carrying the squad to a 34-28 halftime lead.

Over the first 20 minutes, the Mustangs shot a crisp 48% from the field with Scott going 5-8 en route to 12 points.  Rivera tallied nine points and had already grabbed 11 rebounds.

Coming out of the break, Kimmy Iverson buried a pair of three-pointers and scored eight of her team’s first nine points, extending the Mustang lead to 43-32 with 16:50 remaining.  The Sea Lions answered, carving the deficit to 43-37 with five straight points but a Morgan Schwegler jumper at the 12:33 mark restored order.

That set a pattern for the game’s final 10 minutes.  Every time the Sea Lions would make a run, the Mustangs countered.  When the Sea Lions pulled within 49-45 on a Crissa Jackson three-ball with 10:16 remaining, Scott matched that almost two minutes later.  Six consecutive points from Schwegler rebuffed another Sea Lion assault and when Levanen converted a pair of charity tosses with 5:44 remaining, the Mustangs had built another 11-point lead (60-49).

The hosts made one final run, closing to 62-57 with just over two minutes left but a Scott layup and two Whitney Best free throws put the game away.

Scott’s 17 points led all scorers, going 7-12 from the field, including 3-6 from behind the arc.  Iverson was right behind with 16 points, draining four three-pointers and hitting all four of her attempts from the line.  Schwegler provided a big spark off the bench, matching Rivera’s 10 points while grabbing five rebounds.

Trying to hang on to a playoff spot, the Mustangs return home on Tuesday evening to host No. 13 Azusa Pacific in a 5:30pm start in Bross Gym.