MBK: Westmont advances to GSAC semifinals

In the 106th meeting between the two teams, Westmont notched its seventh win against Biola in the past eight matchups, 70-66, in the first round of the GSAC men’s basketball tournament on Thursday in La Mirada.

The Warriors will play at Vanguard in the semifinals on Saturday.

Westmont started off strong, scoring six unanswered points to develop a quick 6-2 lead that forced Biola to burn a timeout just three minutes into the contest. Tied at 13 six minutes later, the Warriors rattled off an 8-0 run to build a 21-13 advantage.

The Eagles answered back, utilizing a 10-2 streak to knot the game at 23 with 6:35 left in the first half. However, as the intermission approached, the Warriors broke the contest’s nip and tuck theme, scoring 16 points in the period’s final six minutes to produce a 39-28 halftime score line.

Much of Westmont’s early offensive success was provided by big men Daniel Carlin (11 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal) and Marcus Farrand (8 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal). The tandem controlled the lane, teaming together to supply the Warriors with 16 points (eight each) in the paint throughout the contest’s introductory half.

It was Farrand, the team’s captain, who challenged his teammates in the locker room before the game, asking, “Are you done?” He then emphatically stated, “We are not done!”

The first 20 minutes saw extreme offensive efficiency from the men in maroon. The team outperformed the Eagles by 23.5 percentage points from the floor (53.8 – 30.3), converted a perfect 9-of-9 attempts from the charity stripe, and received six or more points from five players.

Westmont led by as much as 14 to begin the second half, but Biola cut it to an eight-point game at the 10:35 mark, spawning a prompt timeout from Moore.

Three minutes later, the margin was seven (50-43) with the ball in Biola’s possession. Yet, Jason Ritchey (18 points – 7-of-11 field goals, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) pulled off a heady defensive play, stealing the ball and calling a timeout as he was tied up with an Eagle’s defender. The do-it-all Ritchey then went on to score consecutive baskets on the Warrior’s next three offensive trips to keep it at a three-possession game.

Nonetheless, with 3:30 remaining, Biola had closed within five (58-53). Dakari Archer (13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) then sent the home crowd into a frenzy as he finished an old-fashioned three-point play to pull his Eagle’s within two (60-58).

Ritchey – along with senior counterparts C.J. Miller (9 points – 7-of-10 free throws, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal) and Mantas Drungys (13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal) – was integral in the latter half, especially down the stretch. The trio supplied aggressive defense and rebounding to help secure a second-round, semifinal berth.

“Jason made the biggest plays of the game,” affirmed Moore. “He and Mantas were really important tonight. Daniel and Marcus were phenomenal and made a tremendous difference for us, as did Brendan Hill’s defensive efforts.”

Tonight marked the first occasion on the 2013-14 campaign in which Miller did not score in double figures. The All-GSAC honoree is averaging 18.2 points per conference contest.

“C.J. didn’t force things,” commented Moore. “He only took three shots, but he got to the free-throw line and performed with poise, leading us well.”

Westmont now leads the all-time series 56-49.