MBK: Westmont falls short in GSAC semifinal

Eleventh-ranked and top-seeded Westmont lost 80-77 to fourth-seeded Concordia in the semifinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at Murchison Gym.

Despite the defeat, the Warriors expect to receive an at-large bid for the NAIA national tournament.

Westmont was blown out by Concordia the last time the two teams met.

Saturday’s game remained close throughout with 14 ties, 27 lead changes and no lead greater than seven points.

“It turned around on a couple of little plays – block outs, rebounds at key times, missed free throws and their made rebounds,” said Westmont coach John Moore.

Westmont held a 44-41 lead at the intermission, but was unable to break away from Concordia. The Eagles grabbed the lead (53-50) on a three-point shot by Delaun Frazier (14 points, 3 rebounds) with 13:09 to play but gave it back on a jumper by C. J. Miller (16 points, 6 rebounds) and a layup by Jordan Sachs (16 points, 7 rebounds). A layup by Mantas Drungys (12 points, 6 rebounds) stretched the Warrior lead to 56-53 with 11:15 remaining.

An 8-2 run by the Eagles over the next two-plus minutes, gave Concordia its biggest lead of the night (64-58) with 8:56 remaining. Drungys responded with a three-point bucket that sparked a Warrior 11-4 run giving the Warriors a brief 69-68 lead with 4:42 to play.

With 2:16 to play, Miller stole the ball and landed a dunk to tie the game at 73. With just under a minute to play, Concordia’s Dakota Downs (8 points, 5 rebounds) was fouled and made the first of two free throws. He missed the second, but Tim Harris (17 points) grabbed the offensive board and put the ball through the net while fouled. He completed the ‘and-one’ play to give Concordia a 77-73 lead with 51 seconds to go.

A layup by Preston Branson (24 points, 4 rebounds) cut the Eagles’ advantage to two with 32 seconds remaining. One of two free throws by Peter Smith (16 points, 7 rebounds) made it a three point game before Sachs scored on a layup with 14 seconds left to pull the Warriors to within one point (78-77) with 14 seconds left in regulation.

One second later, Smith sank two free throws to account for the final score. Niko Brooks and Sachs each got off a three-point attempt in the waning seconds of the game, but neither scored. The horn sounded as Sachs’ shot was in the air, but the ball stuck in the rim, ending the game.

The Warriors (25-7) will have to wait until Wednesday to learn their seeding and first round opponent in the upcoming NAIA National Tournament. The Tournament begins on March 13 with all 31-games played at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium in the span of a week. It sounds as though Moore has plenty of plans for keeping his team busy until then.

“The great thing is that we get to practice next week,” said Moore. “We get to go back and do some things that will feel like we are starting practice over again. We will work on the details and make those improvements and that will make a huge difference when we get back to Kansas City.

“As I told the guys, ‘It’s all about keeping your head high, I am very proud of you and better than that, I’m proud of the team you are about to become’.”

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