Warriors Post Fifth Straight Win

Submitted by: Ron Smith - December 15th, 2012


Preston Branson

Twenty-two points from senior guard Preston Branson helped #5 Westmont Men’s Basketball (8-1) overcome a feisty Bethesda (1-12) team and earn a 69-59 victory on Friday night at Murchison Gymnasium. Branson also added four points and four assists.

The Warriors struggled early in the first half. After a layup by Branson opened the scoring, the Warriors misfired on their next six attempts.

“We pressed well early and got lots of steals,” noted Westmont head coach John Moore, “but we missed layups out of those steals and so we got a little tentative even on our press. Since they only had six guys, our game plan was to press them. In the second half, our press and fast break is what made the difference.”

Moore was clearly disappointed in his team’s level of play.

“It was a game that looked like we were still in finals week,” quipped Moore, referring to the final examinations which concluded early in the day. “As I told our guys, I thought we had the best final weeks practice in the 20 years of my having been head coach here at Westmont. Usually, the way you play in practice is how you play in the game. But this week was not an indicator.

“The one thing we have been working on practice was taking care of the ball. But we turned the ball over 21 times against a team that was not a high-pressure team. We had done a good job of correcting unforced errors in practice, but it did not carry over to the game.”

A layup by Marcus Farrand with 6:18 gave the Warriors the largest lead in the opening frame at 20-13. However, Bethesda overtook the Warriors (24-23) on a jumper by Ralph Monday with 3:44 remaining before intermission.

A layup by Branson returned the lead to Westmont before Alan Marsh’s and-one play gave the Flames a 27-25 advantage with 2:39 showing on the clock. Two free throws by Mantas Drungy’s tied the game at 27 with 2:09 to go. Two minutes later, Cooper Damron gave Westmont a 29-27 advantage to take into the locker room at halftime.

Westmont never trailed in the second half, but never had a comfortable margin either. A three-point bucket by Branson gave Westmont its first double-digit lead (62-52) with 4:07 left in regulation. The Warrior’s largest lead of the game came twenty seconds later which Branson added a layup.

However, the flame scored the next five points on a three pointer and a layup by Daniel Chavez, making it 64-57 with 2:12 to go. A pair of free throws by Drungys and another pair by Brooks gave Westmont a 68-57 lead with 1:21 remaining, which proved to be more than enough.

“Mantas had a very good first half, scoring eight of his ten points in the first half,” said Moore. “He carried us a little bit. Jordan Sachs had 13 rebounds which is an example of what he is capable of doing even when he didn’t have his best offensive night.”

Next up for the Warriors is a road trip to Cal State San Marcos for games on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 18 and 19. On Tuesday, Westmont will take on John Brown (Ark.) and then play Cal State San Marcos on Wednesday. Both games are at seven o’clock.

Brown finished just one place out of the top-25 in this week’s national ranking which San Marcos was positioned at number 15.

“We will take on two very tough teams,” noted Moore. “John Brown is coached by former Fresno Pacific coach Clark Sheehy, whom I know well. They will be loaded for bear. San Marcos is going to be a big challenge playing them at their home.”

Next week marks a rare time for student-athletes when they get to focus exclusively on the second half of that hyphenated moniker.

“The focus can be on playing great basketball, being together and becoming more unified as a team,” said Moore. “Two out of our nine games have been on the road and we have been a good road team. It is a great time for a road trip, other than cutting our Christmas break a little short, which no one likes to do including me and my family.”

On the other hand, a couple of “W”s would make a nice Christmas present for the Warrior coach.

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