Starting five gives Westmont high-five

All five starters scored in double-figures as Westmont Women’s Basketball posted an 87-74 Golden State Athletic Conference victory over the Royals of Hope International (2-5, 0-2 GSAC). The Warriors (6-1, 2-0 GSAC) held the lead from the first layup scored by Amber Stevens 33 seconds into the game, which was played at Darling Pavilion in Fullerton.

“It was a really balanced offensive effort,” said Westmont Head Coach Kirsten Moore. “Everyone that was suited up tonight played and scored. Something we have really been focusing on is our team energy and enthusiasm. One of the biggest challenges on the road is bringing that energy with you. The team did a great job of being prepared, energetic and focused going into tonight’s game.”

Alisha Heglund led the Warriors with 15 points while making seven of 11 from the floor. The senior post player also tallied six rebounds. Senior shooting guard Jessica Case contributed 13 points to the Warriors total. Junior forward Angel Blanco and sophomore guard Katie Kittle each added 12 points and five rebounds. Kittle also had three blocks and three steals. Senior point guard Amber Stevens notched 10 points, five assists and a team high seven rebounds.

After starting the game with a 6-0 lead the Warriors continued to press their advantage in the first half. Up 25-16 with eight minutes left on the clock, junior guard Elizabeth Evancoe (nine points) started a 10-2 Warrior run with a three-point field goal. Kittle matched Evancoe’s three before the Royals’ Lindsay Salazar (20 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds) scored on a layup to make it a 31-18 game. Heglund followed with a jumper and then a layup to complete the run and advance the score to 35-18 with 5:27 remaining.

Hope International picked up three points on a long range bucket by Sarah Nylander (17 points, 3 rebounds) before the Warriors put up a 7-2 run to close out the half. The run included of two layups and a free throw by Kittle and a jumper in the paint by freshman post player Tawny McCain (3 points, 4 rebounds).

Westmont’s 19-point lead at the intermission (42-23) was extended to 21 on a layup by Blanco. But the undeterred Royals battled back to pull within seven points (54-47) with 10:36 left in regulation.

“We have a lot of respect for Hope and the way they have been playing this year,” said Moore. “They are a good team and really showed that in the second half. If there is anything we are disappointed in it is our defense in the second half. But some of that was the way that Hope was playing.”

Freshman guard Vanessa Farias (5 points) answered the Royals’ surge with a conventional three-point play on the opposite end of the court to restore a 10-point Warrior lead. Salazar cut the lead to eight with a layup before Evancoe responded with two free throws. Nylander then scored again from long range, once again pulling the Royals to within seven (59-52).

However, Case nailed the second of her three-pointers to regain a double-digit advantage and start a 10-2 run for the Warriors; a run which saw another three-pointer from Case and two layups by Stevens. Westmont did not allow the Royals to get closer than 10 points the rest of the way.

“We did a good job maintaining our composure,” said Moore. “We got big defensive plays at important times. Katie Kittle had two steals at really important times and Amber got another steal and was able to score a transition bucket. By getting some momentum off of our defense, we were able to slow their run down.”

The Warriors will have one more game before final examinations, taking on non-conference opponent La Sierra on Saturday, December 12 at Murchison Gymnasium. Tip-off is scheduled for seven o’clock.