By Christy Cain
(KANSAS CITY, Mo.) The Westmont men’s basketball team certainly had their dancing shoes on this evening as they took the court against top-seeded, fellow Golden State Athletic Conference team Hope International in the semifinal round of the NAIA Men’s National Championship. Thankfully, when the clock struck 0:00, this Cinderella team did not turn into pumpkins. Instead, for the first time in Westmont College history, your men’s basketball team is taking the biggest stage of all to play for a chance at a NAIA National Championship Title.
“First of all, I have to start with Hope International,” opened teary eyed head coach John Moore. “They are an incredible team and we are very fortunate. Every time we took a lead, they came back and made big shot after big shot. They hit a basket at the very end and it looked like it might have won the game for them. But we put the ball in our best mans’ hand and Cory Blau had no hesitation. He buried that shot.”
Coming into this game, the odds were once again stacked against the Westmont men. Hope International has not only owned the GSAC all season, but held the top spot in the NAIA national rankings. They are a squad of great talent with a deep bench. The Royals defeated Westmont both times in regular season conference play and were looking to strike them out for good.
But you know what people always say? It is hard to beat a team three times. And tonight, that proved to be true.
Hope took a quick 2-0 lead eight seconds into the game by sinking a pair of free throws after a foul by Daniel Carlin. To have a notch in the big man’s belt that early on was not ideal, but four minutes later the Warriors were able to tie the game up at 8-8 and never looked back. From there, the Warriors ran a very well balanced and evenly distributed offense all night long. Not only did they move the ball quickly and efficiently all night long, defensively they went after Hope International’s players like their season depended on it.
Because it did.