MBK: Blau, McDonnell carry Westmont in GSAC opener

Westmont’s Cory Blau and Sean McDonnell each put up 24 points, and No. 14 Westmont opened Golden State Athletic Conference play on Tuesday night with an 89-80 win over No. 21 Vanguard.

McDonnell pulled down 18 rebounds — the most by a Warrior since Evan Haines pulled down as many against Vanguard on February 27, 2010. McDonnell went seven of 10 from the floor and made 10 of 10 from the charity stripe.

“I thought Sean McDonnell was special all game long, but particularly in the first half,” noted Westmont head coach John Moore. “He put us on his back and carried us.”

Blau came into the game leading the NAIA in three-point field goal percentage, averaging .659 from long distance (27 of 41). But the junior showed his versatility by scoring 21 of his points from within the arc. Blau, who had four first half points, accounted for 14 of the Warriors’ 17 final points.

“Cory picked the right shots to take,” said Moore. “I thought he played with incredible concentration, focus and poise. His scoring started with a very nice pass in the second half. An unselfish play led to him scoring time and time again.”

The game was close throughout with neither team achieving a ten-point advantage. Vanguard took a 12-10 lead on a layup by Zach Allmon with just over 14 minutes to play in the opening frame. They retained the lead for the next 12 minutes when two free throws by Sean Harmen (5 points) made it a 37-37. By intermission, the Lions had produced a 45-41 advantage.

Three and one-half minutes into the second half, a layup by McDonnell gave Westmont its first lead in 20 minutes. The lead changed hands three more times before an old-fashion three with a twist put Westmont up 63-61. Samuel Bentz (8 points) was fouled in the act of shooting and awarded two free throws. After making the first, he missed the second but snagged the rebound and scored on the put-back.

While the score remained close, the Warriors never trailed again.

Westmont is 7-2, 1-0 GSAC and Vanguard is 7-1, 0-1.