Tugce Canitez and Katie Kittle combined for 48 points and top-seeded Westmont used a dominating second half to pull away from The Master’s College 70-53 in a first-round game of the GSAC Tournament.
The loss, which eliminated the Mustangs from the tournament, ended a disappointing season at 12-19.
Canitez, the GSAC Player of the Year, and Kittle, her all-conference teammate, were too much for the Mustangs as evidenced by their dominant play at the beginning of each half. They combined to score No. 5 Westmont’s first 17 points, forging a 17-8 lead in the first 6:30 of play.
But, it was their second-half opening salvo combined with an overwhelming defensive effort that put the Mustangs away. Up 32-27 at the half, the Warriors kept the Mustangs off the scoreboard for over nine minutes and tallied 19 unanswered points to turn the game into a rout. Eleven of those points were scored by the Canitez-Kittle duo.
The Mustangs finally scored on a pair of Morgan Schwegler free throws with 10:41 left to play but that just put a small dent in the Warrior juggernaut. A Kittle layup just over a minute later gave the Warriors their largest lead of the game (54-29) and they cruised home from there.
Although it was all but over, there proved to be no quit in the Mustangs who put together a nice run after that, outscoring the Warriors 7-0 in a 1:21 span. Sophomore Zoe Scott ignited the burst with a three-pointer while Kimmy Iverson contributed a trio of free throws.
They weren’t finished either. Down 61-38 with 4:28 remaining, the Mustangs scored 11 of the game’s next 12 points in a two-minute window, slicing the deficit to thirteen (62-49). It was too little, too late but it was an encouraging way for the club to end the campaign. Ella Joines, playing her last game in a Mustang uniform, fueled the uprising with seven points, highlighted by a pair of three-pointers, while Lena Rivera, the lone Mustang represented on the All-GSAC squad, and Whitney Best added two points apiece.
It was that tandem that supplied much of the Mustang offense in the first half, tallying 15 of the club’s 27 points. But, with the exception of a Best layup, it was their teammates that helped the Mustangs recover from the early nine-point deficit.
Senior Morgan Schwegler, another Mustang playing her final collegiate game, keyed an 10-0 blitz with a pair of jumpers and Zoe Scott capped it off four minutes later (8:41 mark) with a pair of free throws, vaulting the Mustangs into an 18-17 lead. In between, Joines drained a jumper and Best converted her layup.
Best, who scored nine first-half points, buried a three-pointer with 7:16 left in the half equaling the Mustangs’ largest lead of the game at 21-19. The Warriors responded with five points in a row to go up by three but Rivera sank two free throws to pull the Mustangs within one. A layup by Rivera with 3:12 left in the opening period made it a one-point game (26-25) again but the hosts answered with six straight points and never looked back.
Best finished a fine freshman campaign with 15 points on 6-9 shooting and yanked down six rebounds while Rivera completed her finest season yet by scoring eight points to go with a team-best eight boards.