Westmont survives in 3 OTs

Blake Bender scored 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Westmont outlasted Vanguard 101-95 in triple overtime in a Golden State Athletic Conference men’s basketball game on Tuesday in Costa Mesa.

Preston Branson scored 23 points, Jordan Sachs had 18 points, TJ Lipold 11 points and Evan Haines added seven points and topped the team in rebounds with 17.

“One side of my brain is exhausted, one side is exhilarated,” said Westmont head coach John Moore after the marathon contest. “After the game, I shared with the team one of my favorite scripture verses. We exult in struggles because struggles lead to perseverance and perseverance leads to character and character leads to hope. These guys pressed on. When it looked like it wasn’t going to go our way, they kept pressing on.

“Preston Branson was sick as a dog yesterday. What a valiant performance he had,” said Moore. “Preston shot the lights out from the free throw line.”

The Lions were led by Alex Chapman who scored 30 points and pulled down eight rebounds and Christ Raybon who notched 29 points, six assists and four rebounds.

Westmont held the lead for most of the second half but Vanguard’s Raybon connected on two free throws to produce a 69-all tie at the end of regulation. The Warriors were forced to enter overtime without the services of Dan Rasp, Niko Brooks or Matt Hornbuckle, all of whom had fouled out in regulation.

Westmont trailed in both the first and second overtimes, but found a way to come back in each. In the first overtime, Vanguard scored the first three points before a layup by Branson and a jumper by Lipold briefly gave Westmont a one-point advantage. Raybon turned the tide, however, making all three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt. With 12 second left on the clock, Branson scored twice from the charity stripe and the first extra period ended 75-75.

In the second overtime, Chapman started the scoring by draining a shot from long distance, putting the Lions up by three. Bender scored on a layup to pull the Warriors to within one point but Taylor Kelly sank one of two free throw attempts to give the Lions a two-point edge. With 2:07 remaining, Chapman stretched the advantage to four with a layup. Raybon then made it a five point game by completing one of two free throws.

That’s when Landon Boucher produced his only points of the night, scoring from beyond the arc with 1:41 left to put the Warriors back in the game. After a block by Sachs, Bender scored on a fastbreak to tie the game at 82 with 1:18 showing on the clock. A jumper by Kelly put the Lions up by two once more, but Lipold and Bender each made one of two free throw attempts in the final 40 seconds to end the second overtime at 84-all.

Two free throws by Sachs put the Warriors ahead 86-84 in the final overtime period before Chapman tied it with a jumper with 4:05 to play. Bender then drained two free throws and Branson laid the ball through the hoop to put Westmont up by four. Branson added two more free throws and the Warriors held a 92-86 advantage with 2:03 to play.

Though Vanguard would go on to narrow the lead to just two points, The Warriors kept the Lions at bay by making 15 of 16 free throws in the third overtime – including eight of eight by Sachs.

“The perseverance, or will to win or determination comes from each other,” said Moore. “Good teams are built on the ability to trust and rely on one another. We sure had to rely on each other quite a bit tonight.”