Jon Hogan’s three-pointer with 1:59 remaining snapped a 51-all tie and The Master’s College finished strong to upset No. 8 Westmont 58-53 Tuesday evening before a raucous crowd in Bross Gym.
The much-needed victory broke a three-game losing skid for the Mustangs and sent them into a three-way tie for fourth place in the GSAC. With three conference games remaining, the Mustangs are 17-9 overall and 9-6 in the GSAC.
Hogan’s long-range bomb from the right side, which hit nothing but net, was part of an 11-2 run that allowed the Mustangs to catch and pass the Warriors who led for most of the evening. It took the Mustangs from a 49-45 deficit with 6:59 remaining to a 56-51 lead with just 18 seconds left.
Westmont’s Preston Branson, who scored a team-high 13 points, sliced the deficit to three points on a layup with three ticks left on the clock but a well-conceived inbounds pass from Devin Dyer to Leif Karlberg resulted in an easy bucket at the buzzer for the final score.
It was a marvelous finish to a game in which the Mustangs had to fight uphill most of the time. It started early when the Warriors held the Mustangs scoreless for nearly four minutes, taking a 12-9 lead on a Branson free throw with 11:52 left in the first half.
It didn’t take long, however, for the Mustangs to respond. Down 15-11, Paul Brown hit a layup with 9:20 remaining and Hogan drained the first of his four trifectas 16 seconds later to vault the Mustangs in front 16-15.
But, that slightest of margins lasted about 30 seconds and when the Warriors answered they did so in a prolific manner. Consecutive layups from Jason Ritchey keyed a 15-1 tear and when he drained a three-ball, one of three Warriors threes during the run, at the 4:55 mark, the visitors had surged in front 30-17.
Reeling from the Warrior outburst and on the cusp of being blown out, the Mustangs finally got their offense in gear in the closing minutes of the first half. After being held to just two points in a six-minute window, the club outscored Westmont 9-0 in the final 3:11 to slice the deficit to 30-26 at halftime.
Leif Karlberg, the team leader in three-pointers, buried one to start the run and then watched as teammate Anthony Cammon went to work for the rest of the squad’s points. He converted a pair of free throws and threw in a couple of short-range jumpers, including one with 10 seconds remaining that cut the margin to four points at the break.
The Mustangs were fortunate to be that close, shooting only 31% from the field, while the Warriors sank half (11-22) of their attempts, including 5-9 from behind the arc.
The late, first-half blitz actually carried over into the second half when Karlberg’s three-pointer at the 18:24 mark made it 12 straight points. Now, it was Westmont that was rocked back on its heels but the Warriors showed why they were the country’s eighth-ranked squad, tearing off 10 consecutive points in a 3:35 span and extending their advantage to 40-29. Nate Gibbs fueled the run with a pair of free throws and capped it off with a jumper at the 14:22 mark.
The Mustangs spent the rest of the evening trying to close the gap. Initially, it didn’t take long to do so, answering Westmont’s run with one of their own. A Dyer layup with 13:09 left to play snapped both the Warrior run and the Mustang drought which had reached 5:15.
It triggered a 14-3 skein over the next 4:32 that caught the Warriors at 43. Hogan played the primary role in the run, sandwiching a pair of three-pointers around his own layup, a Dyer jumper, and an Anthony Wells’ layup. Hogan’s third trey of the evening tied the game with 8:37 remaining.
That set things up for the Mustangs’ decisive run that would start in less than two minutes.
After a poor-shooting first half, the Mustangs ramped things up dramatically in the second half, connecting on 54% of their shots and holding Westmont to 35% accuracy.
Hogan, who tallied a game-high 16 points, went 6-8 from the field, including 4-4 from long range. He was joined in double figures by Karlberg and Cammon, who scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
A very busy week continues for the Mustangs on Thursday when they leave GSAC play for one evening to play Cal State San Marcos at Mira Costa College. They return to conference action and the chase for a top four finish on Saturday evening when they travel to San Diego to take on a Pt. Loma Nazarene squad that is one game ahead of them.