MBK: Westmont makes early exit from NAIA Tournament

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A slow started proved to be the undoing of #11 Westmont Men’s Basketball (25-8) in the first round of the NAIA National Tournament. The Warriors fell 71-65 to #20 Martin Methodist of Tennessee (21-11).

“Credit goes to Martin Methodist,” said Westmont head coach John Moore. “I thought they played a whale of a game and we didn’t play quite as well as we are accustomed to playing.

After a three-point bucket by Jordan Sachs (14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists) to start the game, the RedHawks’ Jeremy Rodgers (14 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists) drained a jumper and then connected on two free throws to give Martin Methodist a 4-3 lead.

Westmont’s Preston Branson (19 points) scored with just under 17 minutes remaining, putting the Warriors up by 6-5. It proved to be the last lead the Warriors would own. Twenty seconds later, Davie Champanie (9 point, 9 rebounds) scored on a field goal to spark a 26-8 Martin Methodist run.

Down by 30-13 with just under six minutes to play, Westmont closed the half out on a 13-3 run to cut the deficit to seven points at intermission (33-26).

“We dug ourselves way to big a hole in the first half,” said Moore. “We didn’t play like ourselves, we missed a lot of shots and I thought we played a little tentative. We were a little too wide-eyed in the first half. In the second half we played a lot harder, better and more competitive. We didn’t get back on our heels.”

In the second period, the Warriors played pursuer, keeping the game within a single digit margin for nearly the entire half. Twice Westmont pulled to within three points, but was never able to get any closer.

“At the end of the game, I thought we were playing great basketball,” said Moore. “We almost stole one, but we weren’t quite able to get there.

“I am very proud of our seniors and very proud of what we accomplished this year,” noted the coach. “Winning 25 games and winning the GSAC is something that will go down in history. I’ll talk about our four seniors quite a bit in the future. I am very proud of Jordan, Niko (Brooks), Preston and Cooper (Damron). They are classy guys and great competitors; we will miss them sorely next year.”

Branson concluded his career with 1,589 points; which ranks fifth on the Warriors’ all-time scoring list. His 491 points this season was the most of his career. Sachs surpassed the 800-carrer points mark in his final game, tallying a total of 802 over four-years. Brooks ended the season with 208 points, for a total of 556 points for his career. Damron eclipsed 300 points for the season, tallying 304. In two seasons with the Warriors, he accumulated 438 points.

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