The Master's College task against No. 5 California Baptist in a first-round GSAC Tournament game Wednesday evening in Riverside was daunting enough. It became even more so when the club's top two scorers were either unavailable or fighting illness.
These two challenges were more than the Mustangs could overcome and they fell 69-46 to the Lancers, ending their season (17-13) in very disappointing fashion.
With All-GSAC guard Erica Inge (16.9ppg) fighting illness (she was in bed all day) and Theresa Brown (12.8ppg, 8.4rpg) unavailable due to a coach's decision, the Mustangs fell behind early and never recovered.
The Lancers ripped off the first nine points of the game in the initial 3:14 of action before Lindsey Levanen, making her first career start in place of Brown, ended the skein with a bucket at the 16:29 mark. That barely slowed the Lancers who then tallied 16 of the game's next 20 points to go up 25-6 with 9:44 left in the first half.
It didn't get any better. Following a Kimmy Iverson three-pointer that gave the Mustangs their first points in over two minutes, the Lancers tore off 12 unanswered points, extending the advantage to 37-9 with 4:51 remaining.
Absorbing the blitz, the Mustangs played even with the Lancers through the final minutes of the half and went to the locker room down 44-16. Over the opening 20 minutes, the Mustangs shot just 21% from the field while the Lancers more than doubled that rate with a 45% showing.
The Lancers showed no letup through most of the second half, adding to their cushion in a prolific manner. The lead moved to 30 points (46-16) on their first possession of the second half and reached a game-high 34 (60-26) with 9:45 left to play.
Knowing their season was coming to an end, the Mustangs fought valiantly and played their best ball of the evening over the next four minutes. Fueled by a Zoe Scott jumper, the Mustangs put together a 12-0 run that closed the deficit to 60-38. Ella Joines added a three-pointer, Levanan scored consecutive baskets, Lena Rivera buried a jumper, and Inge capped it off with a free throw.
Another late burst, this one of the 8-0 variety, closed the gap even more as Joines' free throw with 36 seconds remaining made it a 66-46 game. Joines sparked the run with a three-pointer while Rivera and Scott converted layups.
In defeat, the Mustangs were led by Rivera who may have played her best game of the year. The sophomore wing tallied a team-high 14 points and pulled down a career-best and game-high 15 rebounds. Playing the final game of her career, Inge tallied four points and dished out a team-high seven assists.