MBK: Warriors can’t finish off Hope International

FULLERTON — “I feel like we gave this one away,” said Westmont Men’s Basketball head coach John Moore after the Warriors (17-4, 6-2 GSAC) lost a Golden State Athletic Conference game at #4 Hope International (18-1, 6-1) on Saturday night by a score of 72-68.

“Give them all the credit; they are a very good team,” continued Moore. “There is a reason they are a top-five team, but I think we have a chance to be a top-10 team and we needed to play like it. This is a game that we gave back to them and I am disappointed in that.”

The Warriors shot 57.7 percent in the first half (15 of 26) and built a 16-point lead (36-20) with two and one-half minutes to go before intermission. But a series of three Warrior turnovers and four missed shots let the Royals close out the half on an 8-0 run and narrow the deficit to eight points (36-28) before the horn sounded

“We did not finish the half well,” said Moore. “We weren’t able to go into halftime with at least a double-digit lead and I think because of that we played more tentative in the second half.”

Foul trouble for Daniel Carlin and Britton Williams (8 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) also made it difficult for the Warriors. Carlin had a very strong first half, making seven of eight from the field while tallying 16 points. But with three and one-half minutes to go, Carlin picked up his second foul and took a seat on the beach.

“Daniel was never able to get his rhythm in the same way in the second half,” noted Moore.

Carlin saw just 10 minutes of court time and made just one more bucket. He also added three second half rebounds and three assists.

Williams had no fouls in the first half but picked up four in a span of eight minutes in the second half and missed the final seven minutes of the game.

Another challenge came in the form of the Royals’ senior guard Kenny Morgan who tallied 23 points – 15 in the second half.

“We just couldn’t stop Kenny Morgan,” said Moore. “He is a very nice player and we couldn’t stop him from going to the rim, especially in the second half.

With 4:20 to play, Cory Blau (21 points, 4 rebounds) was awarded four free throws – two because of a personal foul and two due to a technical foul called against the Royals. Blau sank all four and gave Westmont a 65-60 advantage.

On the ensuing possession, Hope Internationals’ Raphael Banal drained a three-pointer. However, 40 seconds later, Blau answered back with a three of his own to put the Warriors up 68-63. Unfortunately, a familiar pattern was about to emerge.

With 2:54 to play, Carlin fouled out. With 2:15 remaining, Morgan connected on a jumper in the paint and sparked what turned out to be a 9-0 Royal run to end the game. Westmont went 0-4 from the field in the final two minutes of the half.

As a result of the loss, the Warriors fall into a tie with #12 Concordia for third place in the GSAC standings. At 6-2 in GSAC play, both the Eagles and Warriors are one-half game behind Hope International and #15 Arizona Christian.

One game behind the Warriors in fifth place is reigning NAIA National Champion Vanguard who defeated Concordia tonight by a score of 69-57. Westmont and Vanguard will meet up at Murchison Gymnasium on Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.