WBK: Sampson is clutch down stretch for Westmont

After suffering its first two-game losing streak in more than a year last week, the 14th-ranked Westmont women’s basketball team made a statement on Tuesday night in Murchison Gymnasium by defeating No. 9 The Master’s, 59-54, in Golden State Athletic Conference play.

The Warriors have not lost three in a row since the end of the 2010-11 season.

“We have had a tough stretch with three ranked teams in a row,” remarked Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. “We lost the first two in tough ways. But we learned things from both of those games that we put into practice today. It was nice to see us bounce back and come up with a big win against a really good team. I was really proud of our defense. It was great to hold a team that averages 81 points to 54.”

Celina Gougis (10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) sank a three-point bucket, giving the Warriors a lead that grew to 10 points (31-21) at the intermission. The Warriors (12-6, 3-2 GSAC) held on to that lead through the first 10 minutes of the second half.

With nine minutes to play, however, the Mustangs’ Megan Lindsley (5 points) scored on a jumper to initiate an 11-0 run that gave The Master’s a one-point advantage (48-47) with 5:51 to play. One minute later, a layup by Lauren Sende (2 points, 5 rebounds) regained the lead for the Warriors (49-48).

Aysia Shellmire (4 points, 3 rebounds) tipped in a missed layup by Esther Lee (9 points) with just over four minutes left in regulation to put Westmont up 51-48. However, the Mustangs’ Jacquelyn Marshall (14 points, 13 rebounds) scored on the next possession to keep The Master’s within one.

With just over three minutes remaining, Kelsie Sampson scored to re-establish a three-point margin (53-30). But as the clock showed 2:00, Marshall scored again on a layup.

Sampson struck again with 1:14 to play and then again with 25 seconds left, giving the Warriors a 57-52 advantage. Marshall cut into the Warrior lead with a couple of free throws with 12 seconds left, but Lee responded in kind with 0:06 to go to establish the final score.

For Lee, it was her 34th and 35th made free throw in a row going back to last year. She has not missed a free throw since her first game in a Warrior uniform on November 2, 2012. She is 26 of 26 from the charity stripe in the 2013-14 season.

“This year, Esther is getting to the free throw line more,” noted Moore. “Instead of just staying outside, she is looking to drive and attack more, so she is getting to the line.”

Westmont was led in scoring by Sampson who tallied 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting and also pulled down seven rebounds.

“The biggest of Kelsie’s points were the huge buckets down the stretch in crunch time,” said Moore. “She battled through an injury to do that today. I’m really proud of her effort.

“Lauren Sende played great defensively and had great talk, energy and leadership on the court,” continued the coach. “She also got a bunch of good o-boards for us. Celina Gougis gave us rebounding. Erin (Beadle) provided leadership as well as five assists, no turnovers and six rebounds. The Master’s was all over Esther but she stayed with it and hit two huge free throws down the stretch. Cora (Chan) came off the bench and hit two threes. It was a great team effort.”

The Warriors will have little time to savor their victory as they will have a quick turnaround before hosting Arizona Christian (5-14, 0-5) in a rare Thursday night game at Murchison Gymnasium.