With senior forward Dan Rasp playing just six minutes in Saturday’s game, Westmont Men’s Basketball suffered a 71-60 loss to the Sea Lions on Point Loma Nazarene at Murchison Gymnasium.
Rasp picked up his second foul just over five minutes into the game and took a seat on the bench. He returned to the court with six minutes showing on the first-half clock, but forty-seconds later, sprained his ankle and was removed from the game. His prognosis is unknown.
“This is a team I thought might vie for the GSAC Championship,” said Westmont head coach John Moore of the Warriors. “It is still early, but I feel as if we are losing a little bit of confidence. Speaking with players since the Biola game, I think we need to regain some confidence. There is a chance for this team to have great chemistry, but it doesn’t feel like there is much chemistry out there at all right now. I think the players are feeling that way. There are five guys and sometimes it looks as though there are five guys going five different directions.”
Point Loma took control early and never trailed in the game. The Sea Lions took a double-digit advantage (14-4) on two free throws by Point Loma’s leading scorer Rhett Beal (14 points, 12 rebounds), the result of Rasp’s second foul.
With 7:46 to play, Point Loma took their largest lead of the first half on a three-pointer by Marek Klassen 13 points, 7 rebounds), making it a 27-14 game. Westmont’s Preston Branson (22 points, 3 rebounds) nailed a long-range bomb with 22 seconds remaining in the opening period to cut Point Loma’s lead to single digits (33-24) at the intermission.
“I thought there was a hesitancy to shoot the ball,” said Moore of his team’s first half performance. “We didn’t turn the ball over a lot, but there were guys out there that looked very hesitant to shoot the ball. So we talked with the guys about shooting with confidence and taking open shots. In the second half, three of our starters played with more aggressiveness, shot better, attacked the rim and got to the free throw line more regularly.”
A layup by Blake Bender started second-half play, but the Sea Lions responded with the next six points to run the score to 39-26. The Warriors, however, were not finished. Thirty seconds later, Bender connected on one of two free throw attempts and then launched a three-pointer from the top of the key to start an 8-0 run. A jumper by Branson and a steal-layup combination by Niko Brooks, pulled the Warriors to within five points (39-34) with 15:15 remaining in the game.
Point Loma’s Wil Bush (9 points) ended the Warrior run with one of his three three-point buckets to run the score to 42-34. Westmont started whittling away at the Sea Lion advantage and pulled within two points (46-44) on a Branson layup with 9:50 to play. One minute later, it looked as though the Warriors would complete the comeback with Brooks took a rebound and charged down the court. His layup, however, rolled off the rim and CJ Miller was called for his third foul on the rebound. Miller, playing extra minutes as a result of the injury to Rasp, scored three points and pulled down three rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
“I thought CJ did a nice job battling even though he got the five fouls,” said Moore. “He took two charges, played with good energy and made a big three.”
Todd Campbell (6 points, 4 rebounds) converted one of two free throw attempts and 20 seconds later was back at the line again as Miller committed his fourth foul. This time Campbell made both shots and the Warriors were down 49-44.
The Warriors brought the ball down the court and Brooks connected from long-distance to once again pull the Warriors to within two points (49-47) with 7:52 to play. After Beal scored on a layup for the Sea Lions, Branson made his second three-pointer of the night and Westmont trailed by just one (51-50) with slightly under seven minutes to play.
“I was really proud of the way the guys played in the second half,” said Moore. “You never want to dig a hole like we dug in the first half. I thought in the second half we played with lots of energy without having our leading scorer and one of our captains out there. I thought they responded well.”
However, the Warriors did not score from the field again for nearly six minutes as the Sea Lions put together a 15-5 run to secure the victory.
The Warriors will return to Golden State Athletic Conference play on Thursday when they travel to Riverside to take on the Lancers of California Baptist (5-3, 0-2). Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m.