December 13, 2014
Santa Clarita, Calif. -- It was the right set-up for a Mustang victory. Returning to the home court for the first time in over a month, hosting the defending national champion before a raucous, partisan crowd and looking to snap a four-game losing skid in the process.
Unfortunately, Vanguard didn't cooperate. The Lions took the lead for good late in the first half and then fended off The Master's at every turn the rest of the way Saturday evening to record a 76-65 victory. The loss was the Mustangs' fifth in a row and dropped them to 2-6 overall and, more importantly, 0-3 in the GSAC.
Although the Mustangs trailed the entire second half, they were on the cusp several times of catching the Lions, narrowing a deficit that reached 11 points to three a couple of times in the final five minutes. Down 57-46 with 10:24 left to play, the Mustangs began a methodical march back into contention, pulling to within three points (60-57) on two Russell Byrd (Santa Clarita, CA) free throws at the 5:27 mark.
Almost three minutes later (2:53), Reid Shackelford (Murrieta, CA) sank a free throw to draw his club within 63-60 but a costly lane violation kept the Mustangs from getting closer and the Lions took advantage, scoring four straight points to put the game out of reach. A Chris Patureau (Houston, TX) three-pointer with 1:30 left to play was the club's final gasp (67-63) as the Lions responded with a clutch three-pointer and six straight free throws to ice the win.
The suspenseful finish was a by-product of a back-and-forth first half that featured five ties and five lead changes. Sparked by a game-opening trifecta from Patureau, the Mustangs raced to a 7-0 lead before the Lions got off the deck to produce the game's first knot at 11-all with 14:22 remaining in the half.
After Patureau unlocked the contest with a three-point play, the Lions started firing away from long range, converting a trio of treys as part of a 10-2 run that produced their largest lead of the half, 21-16, with 9:46 showing on the clock.
A resilent Mustang squad, feeding off the energy of the crowd, bounced back quickly as Shackelford keyed a 12-3 blitz with a jumper. Byrd followed with consecutive layups, Patureau converted another three-point play, and when Evan Jenkins (Los Angeles, CA) buried a three-pointer at the 6:11 mark, the Mustangs had a 28-24 advantage.
Over the final minutes of the stanza, the clubs exchanged leads, including the Mustangs' last one of the evening at 34-31 when Shackelford twisted in a for a layup. Jones tied it on a three-pointer on the Lions' next possession and they went to the break up 38-36.
The Mustangs were rather fortunate to be that close after shooting less than 41% from the field over the opening 20 minutes while Lions converted at a 55% (16-29) clip.
Coming out of halftime, the Lions started to exert themselves, extending out to a 47-40 lead in the first five minutes. The Mustangs responded with a Shackelford three-pointer and a Korey Anderson (Clovis, CA) charity toss to cut the deficit to three before the Lions created even more separation with a 10-2 skein that produced the game's largest advantage (57-46), one that the Mustangs could never quite recover from.
Patureau paced four Mustangs in double figures, scoring a game-high 18 points on 6-11 shooting (2-4 from long distance) while snaring a game tying-high eight rebounds. Shackelford contributed 14 points on similar accuracy while Byrd and Jenkins chipped in with 11 apiece.
Now, the Mustangs must wait 17 days before they can hope to put an end to their losing streak. A quirk in the schedule keeps them out of action until December 30 when they open play in the Arizona Christian New Year's Classic against Menlo.