MBK: Warriors capture GSAC season title

Westmont clinched its first Golden State Athletic Conference regular season title under coach John Moore on Saturday night by beating Arizona Western 86-72 at Murchison Gym.

Preston Branson poured in 26 points on 11 of 15 shooting, CJ Miller added 15 points and Niko Brooks contributed 10 for the No.6-ranked Warriors (23-5, 11-1).

“It has been a long time coming,” said Moore of his first regular season GSAC title. “There have been a lot of guys who have helped gain the momentum that our current players got a chance to fulfill. We don’t want to forget the legacy of those players who went before us and did yeoman’s work to help this day happen.

“You have to appreciate this moment,” said the coach. “You can’t deny the satisfaction that comes from it. Too often in athletics we think ahead instead of appreciating the moment. This is a moment to be appreciated. We will stay in the moment until Monday, and then we will prepare for the next two games.”

That appreciation began in a celebration with fans as one-by-one, players climbed a ladder and cut down a portion of the net. Freshman went first, then sophomores. Then it was time for the upperclassmen beginning with the juniors – Brendan Hill, C.J. Miller, Mantas Drungys, Jason Ritchie and Marcus Farrand. The seniors were the next up the ladder – Cooper Damron, Niko Brooks, Jordan Sachs and Preston Branson.

Westmont led 40-34 at halftime but pulled away in the second half behind 65 percent shooting,

Arizona Western (17-5, 7-5) was led by Talib Uqdah with 18 points.

Westmont still has two games left on the regular schedule at Concordia on Tuesday and at Biola on Saturday.

“In the past few years, if you win the GSAC regular season you are automatically going to Kansas City,” noted Moore. “We’ve won a GSAC Championship, but it is the (GSAC) Tournament championship that gets the guaranteed berth. We have to keep that in mind and finish well in two regular season games on the road against two quality opponents.

When the GSAC Tournament gets under way on Thursday, February 28, the Warriors will be the number one seed and will host the number eight seed, which is yet to be determined. A first round win will mean that the Warriors will serve as hosts for both GSAC Tournament semifinals games on Saturday, March 2.

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