Late-night Basketball Proves Rewarding for Westmont

Submitted by: Jordan Wyatt - November 23rd, 2013


WM_PRIM_FC_A_RGBBy Jordan Wyatt

November 23, 2013

(SANTA BARBARA, Calif.) Westmont College’s Murchison Gymnasium featured an all-day affair of athletic activity Saturday as fans were treated to a double serving of NAIA women’s basketball, a NAIA Volleyball National Championship Opening Round contest, and finally, a Westmont Men’s Basketball game that didn’t tip-off until shortly after half past nine.

The evening match-up pitted the Warriors (2-2) against NCAA Division III Pomona-Pitzer (1-2), and regardless of the abnormal start time, the game did not disappoint. When the final buzzer of the day sounded, the Warriors had capped off the bevy of sporting events as victors, ousting the Sagehens 77-69.

The first half consisted of much defensive pressure from both squads. Consequently, neither team shot over 50 percent in the initial 20 minutes; keeping the opening half’s scoring low – 33-29 in favor of the Sagehens.

Despite 16 points and perfect long-range accuracy (3-for-3) in the first half from Pomona-Pitzer senior forward John Weiss (21 points, 7 rebounds), the Warriors managed to keep themselves in the game early. Two three-point field goals from freshman guard Cory Blau (9 points in 15 minutes of play), along with ferocious rebounding by junior center Daniel Carlin (10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) supported their cause.

With 1:34 remaining in the initial half, Westmont senior sensation C.J. Miller (20 points, 9 rebounds) utilized a pump fake that cleared a path to the hoop. Miller then leapt from a few feet out and slammed the ball into the cylinder, inciting a vigorous reaction from Warrior loyals.

Then, right before the halftime buzzer, Blau trimmed the Westmont deficit to four with a timely three, shifting the game’s momentum in Westmont’s direction.

Riding the impetus from Miller’s jam and Blau’s three-pointer, the Warriors blazed out of the half.

On their first possession, redshirt freshman guard Billy Keller (15 points, 4 assists) knocked down a three-ball. Moments later, senior guard Brendan Hill (2 points, 2 steals) recorded a steal and passed ahead to Keller. Keller then dropped the ball off to senior forward Jason Ritchey (11 points, 2 steals) who laid the ball up, drew a foul, and completed a three-point play the old-fashioned way.

With their newfound lead, Westmont pressed on towards the finish. A flurry of three-pointers by Keller, as well as baskets by Miller, Ritchey, and senior guard Mantas Drungys (10 points, 5 rebounds) pushed Westmont’s second half field-goal percentage to 61.5 percent, slowly building the Warrior advantage.

With less than four minutes remaining, Keller and Miller knocked down back-to-back jumpers to give the Warriors their largest advantage of the contest – seven (65-58) – spawning a timeout from Pomona-Pitzer head coach Charles Katsiaficas.

In the final minutes, the Warriors cemented their advantage on multiple free-throws by Drungys and Keller, along with another statement dunk flush from Miller.

“I thought Billy Keller was pretty special tonight,” commented Westmont head coach John Moore. “(Pomona-Pitzer) is a very good team, one that executes extremely well. Overall, we did a much better job in the second half and secured a good, hard-fought victory.”

Next up for Westmont is Menlo College in a tournament hosted by the Oaks in Atherton. The tournament begins on November 29, and will wrap up the following day after the Warriors take on Cal State Maritime. Those games are at four o’clock and two o’clock respectively.

Following the tournament, the Warriors have a home challenge with another Claremont College – Claremont-Mudd-Scripps. The Stags come to town on December 3. That game has a tip-off time of 7:30.