MBK: Westmont reserves step up in Byron victory

Westmont relied on its “next man up” mentality to burn the Heat of British Columbia Okanagan, 83-79, on Monday night to advance to the championship game of the 38th annual Tom Byron Classic.

The Warriors will play Saskatchewan in the title game at 7:30 p.m. The Huskies advanced to the final with a dramatic 89-88 win over Marygrove, Mich. Stephon Lamar scored on a last-second layup for the winning basket.

With three starters out of the lineup, Westmont needed its bench players to step up. And they answered the call.

The play of Kyle Gordon was key to the victory. He finished with seven points, three rebounds, one assist and one steal.

“I think the next man up mentality really is our mantra this season,” said Westmont coach John Moore. “Kyle made his first career start tonight, and he essentially hit what were in my mind the game winning free throws (with 25 seconds remaining).”

All-purpose senior Mantas Drungys, who started at point guard tonight, displayed an array of skills that helped him tally 17 points, five rebounds, five assists, and one steal. Drungys’ persistent defensive pressure and aggressiveness on offense rallied the Warriors in the second half as the Heat made a valiant comeback attempt.

“Mantas was very good in Arizona and especially good for us tonight,” offered up Moore. “He attacked the rim well and shot 70 percent from the floor (7-of-10). Even though he was out of position playing point guard tonight, he was the backbone of our team.”

Also key to the win was new starter Nate Marsing (12 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals).

C.J. Miller led the Warriors with 22 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block and 1 steal. Big man Marcus Farrand had 12 points, 4 rebounds and 1 assist.

“C.J. was the player of the game,” Moore said. “He converted on big shots when we needed him to, including his three-point play (with 2:26 remaining) that kept us up one after (UBCO) came down and scored, and then his huge face-up jump shot with a minute remaining. After he sprained his ankle, he looked like he was done for the game. To come back in and play like he did, it’s nothing short of heroic.”

Farrand established his dominance in the paint.

“Marcus was special,” stated Moore. “The energy he plays with, the kind of leadership he provides for our team, these traits make him play the way he played for us tonight. He was just bouncy and effective. He made 4-of-5 free throws and was the player of the first half for us.

“Similarly, Jay Larinan (2 points), Jared Wilson (1 point, 2 rebounds, 1 assist), Cory Blau (1 rebound, 2 assists, 1 block, 2 steals), and Hayden Anderson (2 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists) all played more minutes than usual and really helped us win.”