Blanco, Hensley go big for Warriors

Elizabeth Evancoe starts the press-break for Westmont.

What looked like a blowout win and a GSAC Challenge championship in the bag at halftime turned into crunch time by late in the second half for the Westmont women’s basketball team on Thursday.

The Warriors, ranked No. 21 in the country, received career highs from Angel Blanco and Larissa Hensley at the right time and stayed in front of Kentucky’s Georgetown 94-86 for the tournament title in Murchison Gym.

Westmont's Angel Blanco rises above her defender to take a shot.

“They really forced us to dig deep to get that win tonight,” Warriors head coach Kirsten Moore said about Georgetown, the only unranked team playing in the GSAC Challenge.

Westmont, which defeated No. 11 Westminster in Wednesday’s tournament opener, led by 17 points at halftime and the lead was at 15 after Katie Kittle made a layup with 3:54 left in the game. But instead of folding, Georgetown went on a 16-5 run to cut the deficit to six points with 54 seconds remaining.

Hensley scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half, including six free throws in the final 54 seconds to ice the game. The Tigers outscored the Warriors by nine in the second half.

“(Larissa) made some big buckets and some really big free throws down the stretch.” Moore said. “(Angel’s) leadership on the floor was incredible.”

Blanco and Hensley were both extremely efficient on the offensive end throughout the game, converting 13-of-20 field goals and 17-of-25 free throws combined. Hensley connected on 8-of-10 free throws herself, including those four crucial makes in the final minute.

Both teams performed well offensively. Westmont’s 94 was 20 points more than its season average and Georgetown’s 86 outdid the Tigers’ regular output by 16.

“I was looking to score just because we had mismatches,” Blanco explained. “I’m not that normally aggressive to score.”

Kourtney Tyra led Georgetown with 18 points and Gina Beining added 17.

The Tigers, who fall to 7-7 on the season, lost to No. 17 California Baptist on Wednesday. Westminster defeated Cal Baptist on Thursday in the first game to leave Westmont the quad-tournament’s only undefeated team.

Moore noted the momentum that the GSAC Challenge gives the Warriors heading into this Tuesday’s conference clash with No. 9 Vanguard. Westmont is now 10-2 after two-straight wins while Vanguard is 6-3 overall. The two teams’ last meeting was a two-point Vanguard win in last year’s GSAC Championship game.

“For us to play two good games back-to-back was great because now we head into GSAC,” said Moore, recalling the bitter loss to Vanguard.  “So we’re really excited to play them and we got some momentum going into that game now.”

The Warriors (2-2) trail Vanguard (3-1) in the conference standings. The Eagles are on of five GSAC teams who share the conference lead with a 3-1 record going into next week.

GSAC CHALLENGE TOURNAMENT SCOREBOARD

Thursday

Westmont 94, Georgetown 86
Westminster 80, California Baptist 71

Wednesday

Westmont 93, Westminster 78
California Baptist 92, Georgetown 70

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