Branson’s 32 absorbed by San Bernardino

Despite a career high 32 points from sophomore guard Preston Branson and a double-double of 11 points and 16 rebounds from Blake Bender, Westmont Men’s Basketball suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday night. The Warriors (3-1) fell in overtime to Cal State San Bernardino (2-2) by a score of 77-73.

Branson made nine of 19 attempts from the floor, including two of five from three-point range. He also drained 12 of 13 free throw attempts. Bender’s 16 boards ranks tenth-best in the Warrior record book, tied with Santiago Aguirre and Nick Debban.

The Warriors got off to a good start, taking a 14-5 lead on a three-pointer by Branson with 13:05 remaining in regulation. However the Coyotes scored the next nine points, including three-pointers by Nate Roth (5 points, 4 rebounds) and Ryan Kinney (11 points, 5 rebounds). From that point on, neither team amassed more than a six point lead.

After a 29-28 halftime score in favor of the Coyotes, Westmont led most of the second half. But with 3:31 to play, Donnell Fleming (6 points) completed a layup to give Cal state San Bernardino a one point lead (59-58). Blake Bender responded with a tip-in to restore a one-point margin to the Warriors. Dan Rasp (11 points, 4 rebounds) made it a three-point game (62-59) with 2:47 when he pilfered the ball and scored on a layup.

D.J. Schmpert (7 points, 6 rebounds) cut the margin to two my making on of two free throws. That is the way it stayed until Rasp mimicked Schmpert’s effort with 45 seconds left on the clock to put the Warriors up 63-60.

The Coyotes came down the court and scored on a layup by Corey Caston (20 points, 6 rebounds) to make the score 63-62. Rasp was then fouled and stepped to the free throw line where he had made seven of eight attempts to that point. But the senior missed both attempts, giving the ball back to the Coyotes with 20 seconds remaining and down only one.

After the Coyotes missed two shots, Fleming was fouled, sending him to the line to shoot two with 0.7 seconds showing on the clock. With the Westmont crowd doing their best to be a distraction, Fleming missed the first attempt, but made the second, and the game went to overtime tied 63-63.

The Coyotes struck first in the overtime period, scoring six points before the Warriors could get on the board. The deficit proved to be too much to overcome. Westmont drew to within three points, three times in the final 30 seconds, but Cal State San Bernardino made eight of 10 free throw attempts in the last minute of overtime and Westmont could not close the gap.

The Warriors will next travel to Atherton for two games after Thanksgiving as part of the Lamont Ramsey Classic at Menlo. On Friday, Westmont will play Cal State Stanislaus, then on Saturday, match-up with the College of Idaho. Both games begin at two o’clock.