WBK: Westmont draws Xavier for NAIA opener

For the fourth year in a row and seventh out of the last eight, Westmont (20-9) has earned a berth in the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. This year, the fourth-seeded Warriors will match up with Xavier of Louisiana (23-9), a number five seed, in the first round of play. Tip-off is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. EDT/6:45 p.m. PDT on Wednesday, March 19.

“They are a very athletic, talented team that likes to pressure,” reported Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore after learning who her team would face in the first round. “What we need to rely on going into the national tournament is our experience and our understanding of what it takes to win.

“Any team you play at nationals can beat you and you can beat any team,” noted Moore. “We are going to take it one game at a time. It is a one-game season now with a strong opponent in the first round. We look forward to being challenged by a very good team.”

The Gold Nuggets were the winners of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference Tournament, defeating Talladega (Ala.) by a score of 66-59 in the championship game. In the regular GCAC season, Xavier finished 10-2 in conference play and won the Western conference. The Nuggets have won the conference title the last four years and have appeared in the National Championships 18 of the past 20 years.

Westmont and Xavier have played once before, with the Nuggets winning 79-72 in overtime on November 3, 2006 in Las Vegas. The meeting was memorable because it was the first game for the Nuggets after sitting out the 2005-06 season. The school suffered major damage inflicted by Hurricane Katrina in August of 2005. Xavier reopened in January of 2006 but was unable to field an athletic program that season.