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John Moore gets National Coach of the Year and Westmont receives several honors

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MONTECITO, Calif.- John Moore became the first Westmont men’s basketball head coach to be named NAIA Coach of the Year, the NAIA announced on Thursday. Moore was previously named GSAC Coach of the Year for the third time earlier this month.

“It’s not just me receiving this honor, it’s Jeff Azain, Rob Goodrow, Landon Boucher and our players,” Moore said. “Those three guys have added so much to my life. What a blessing they’ve been, as have the players.

“This award comes with a lot of satisfaction and a daunting level of humility.”

Entering the season, Westmont didn’t receive any votes in the NAIA Preseason Coaches’ Poll and was picked by Golden State Athletic Conference coaches to finish sixth in the conference. The team began the year with a brand new starting five from the season before, but despite the uncertainty surrounding the new-look Warriors, they had a season to remember.

“I think we all would say that this was the most surprising season in Coach Moore’s long career,” Westmont Athletic Director Dave Odell said. “It might be the most surprising team in my 35-year association with Westmont basketball.”

Westmont defied the odds and won the GSAC regular season title, its first since 2013, in a conference that qualified five teams for the NAIA National Tournament.

The Warriors began the season 14-0, their second best start to a season in program history. The team finished with a 26-5 overall record and ranked seventh in the final NAIA Coaches’ Poll.

“For us to accomplish all that we were able to accomplish as a team is a real indication of how solid this group was as a group of players, as a group of coaches,” Moore said. “We were as unified as any team I can remember being a part of.

“That’s why you get these kinds of awards, with teams that are self-sacrificial and aren’t playing with their own agendas in mind. This team was hungry, hard-working and very humble throughout the season. I get this award only because they remained that way from beginning to end.”

When the NAIA Tournament bracket was released on March 11, Westmont was announced as the seventh overall seed and the number two seed in the Liston Bracket, the program’s highest ever seed in the current tournament format. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the tournament was canceled the next day in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“To be picked sixth in conference and end up seventh in the nation is astounding,” Odell said. “It is a great testimony to the way this team and coaching staff came together under John’s leadership.

“With no NAIA Tournament to participate in, recognitions like this are extra special.”

The Warriors extended their program record of consecutive National Tournament appearances to six, while Moore picked up his 550th win as Westmont head coach on Jan. 23 against Hope International.

Moore, who played at Westmont before he became head coach, credits the tremendous influence his former Westmont coaches, head coach Chet Kammerer and assistant coach Randy Pfund, had on him. Both Kammerer and Pfund went on to coach and be executives in the NBA.

“This coaching award goes all the way back to my days in which I was influenced by Chet and Randy,” Moore said. “What a privilege it is to be alongside Chet in receiving this honor, for all the things that he did for me and all the things he did for Westmont basketball, for the place he left the program.

“Chet was able to offer me a foundation of understanding of how to treat young men. What Randy was able to offer me, with Chet, were the mechanics and strategies of the game of basketball.”

Moore is the sixth ever Westmont head coach, across all sports, to receive an NAIA Coach of the Year Award.

“I’ve always admired the coaches who have won this award,” Moore said. “This is an award that is incredibly prestigious. I love the NAIA. I’m a guy who played in the NAIA, so to get this award from the association I’ve been a part of for so much of my life is a privilege.

“I work at the best college in America, with the best people. What an honor it is to have the family I have. My wife Rachel and my daughters Jacqueline and Jessica have made sacrifices so I could do the best I could as a coach.”

Statistically, the Warriors finished the season ranked in the top-10 in the NAIA in four categories – third in 3-point shooting (41.0%), sixth in 3-point field goals made (333), sixth in assist/turnover ratio (1.36) and seventh in 3-pointers made per game (10.7).

This year’s team set a single-season program record for 3-point field goals made, beating the previous record by 15 despite playing in two fewer games.

The Warriors could have set another program record, for most points in a season, had the National Tournament been played. Instead, Westmont finished the season with the third most points (2,658) by a Warrior team, along with the third best points per game average (85.7).

Junior guard Abram Carrasco was named an NAIA First Team All-American and senior forward Justin Bessard earned NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors, the NAIA announced on Thursday.

Carrasco is the fifth Warrior to be selected to the All-American First Team and the first since Preston Branson in 2012-13. The other three players to earn the honor are: Fred DeVaughn (1972-73), Dave Schultz (1983-84) and Brian Gomes (1998-99).

“That is rarified air that he just joined,” Westmont head coach John Moore said. “Those four others were superb players. It’s hard to be an NAIA Division I First Team All-American, but Bram was the best player in our conference and he would’ve been if not the best, one of the best players at the National Tournament.”

For the season, Carrasco led the Warriors in both points per game (18.9) and assists per contest (4.8), which ranked 19th and 21st in the NAIA respectively. His 585 points were the 14th most in the NAIA and rank 11th in a single season in Westmont program history, despite the season being cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Earlier this month, Carrasco became the second Warrior to ever be named GSAC Player of the Year and the first to do so outright, after helping his team defy preseason predictions and claim the conference regular season crown.

The junior transfer led the conference with 20.8 points per GSAC game and ranked second with 5.1 assists per GSAC contest.

“One of the most difficult things to do is to continue to score at a high level when all eyes are upon you,” Moore said. “Bram’s scoring average went up once conference started and that’s unheard of.”

The two-time GSAC Player of the Week scored 20 or more points in 15 games, including 12 against GSAC opponents. He had a consecutive five-game stretch during conference play with at least 22 points, including against William Jessup on Feb. 6, when Carrasco set Westmont career highs with 31 points and 10 assists.

“Bram made his teammates better,” Moore said. “Bram is a great passer and a great defender. He has a complete game. He can shoot the three and can score at the basket.

“He found the right guys at the right time over and over throughout the year. It would have been hard for us to be a team that won 20 games without Abram Carrasco. He’s very special.”

Bessard earned NAIA Honorable Mention All-American honors in his lone season as a Warrior after transferring from Bellevue (Neb.), adding to the All-GSAC selection he received earlier this month.

“He’s a very good passer, but he’s also a guy that can stretch the defense,” Moore said. “He was our primary low post scorer, but he could also step out and shoot threes. He broke open games and helped us win games.”

Bessard led the Warriors in rebounding, averaging 7.0 boards per game, while he was second on the team with 15.1 points per outing. The senior, who was named GSAC Player of the Week on Feb. 3, also shot 39.5% from 3-point range.

He scored 20 or more points in nine games, including three 27-point outings, his Westmont career high. One of those games came against NCAA Division I opponent UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 2.

“He was good as anyone on the court when we played against UCSB,” Moore said. “He had a very special game out there against a Division I opponent.”

Bessard recorded five double-doubles on the season, including one in what turned out to be his final collegiate game, a GSAC Tournament semifinal loss to #19 Arizona Christian. In that game, which Moore said was one his best, Bessard scored 27 points while setting his Warrior career high with 14 rebounds.

Not only was Bessard’s play on the court impressive, but so was his leadership.

“As Jordan Spaschak said frequently, anytime the players were in the team room at halftime, it was JB’s voice that was being heard,” Moore said. “What he had to say was calming and so articulate that his teammates had full trust in him.

“Especially since he was our lone senior that was able to play, since Jordan Spaschak wasn’t able to play [because of injury], for his to voice to not only be on the court but also in the locker room tells you the immense value he had for this team.”

Three members of the top-ranked Westmont Women's Basketball have been honored by the NAIA for their quality of play this year:

· Iyree Jarrett of Whittier was named to the All-American First Team.

· Maud Ranger of Paris, France was named to the All-American Third Team

· Stefanie Berberabe of Norwalk received All-American Honorable Mention honors.

Westmont (27-3) and #4 Campbellsville (29-3) of Kentucky were the only teams to have three players honored by the NAIA Women's Basketball Coaches All-American Selection Committee.

Jarrett, a sophomore, led the Warriors in both scoring (14.10 points per game) and in assists (5.14 per game). She ranked 13th in the NAIA in assists per game and fourth in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.98). Of the three above her in the latter category, two were teammates – Lauren Tsuneishi (first at 4.10) and Krissy Miyahara (third at 3.09). Berberabe was fifth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.84.

"Iyree had a phenomenal year," said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. "The deeper we got into this season, and as we got into conference and had the opportunity to win a conference championship, she stepped up her game to an even higher level in terms of her ability to control a game on the offensive end of the floor. Not only was she able to score, but more importantly, she was able to control tempo, control flow and get her teammates shots.

"If you look at the number of points she created offensively, it wasn't just her scoring, but her assists as well. She was contributing 30 points a game to our offensive production. Most of her assists resulted in a three-point basket."

In just two seasons, Jarrett ranks seventh in career assists at Westmont with 283. Her 149 assists this season ranks eighth in Westmont's season record book. She needed just five more to move into fourth place and 32 to tie for the single-season record, numbers she may well have achieved if the NAIA Championship had not been canceled due to the COVID-19 virus. Against Olivet Nazarene, Jarrett tied a school single-game record with 13 assists.

"Iyree's on-court presence and leadership took a step up this year," noted Moore. "This year, she demonstrated the maturity to know when to take over games, when to score and when to create for others.

"She leaks positivity and oozes joy," described Moore. "She has a gratefulness to have the opportunity to play, pure love for the game and love for her teammates and she makes the most of every opportunity. She does it with a smile on her face, but in an incredibly competitive way. I am really excited to see her honored as a first-team All-American."

Ranger averaged a double-double in her senior season with 11.73 points and 10.00 rebounds per game. A feat made more remarkable by her 5-7 height.

"A huge question mark for our team, when Sydney Brown went down, was how we were going to hang on the boards and finish possessions with rebounds," acknowledged Moore. "Maud, who was recruited as a two-guard, stepped up and finished her career as a four (post player) who averaged a double-double for us. For her to be able to do that at her size shows how big her heart is and how unbelievably competitive she is. It shows her work ethic and relentless nature."

Ranger ranked 12th in the NAIA in rebounds per game and fourth in the Golden State Athletic Conference. In defensive rebounds per game, Ranger's 7.73 per game ranked fourth in the NAIA and second in the GSAC. Her 300 total rebounds is the program's third most for a single-season, exceeded only by Tugce Canitez.

"I couldn't be more excited to have Maud honored as an All-American this year," said Moore. "There is no one in our program that has worked harder. Over her four years, she has absolutely maximized her potential as a basketball player."

Ranger, who has averaged more minutes played this season than any Warrior in program history (34.3), tied Tsuneishi with 3.20 made 3-point field goals per game, which ranks third in NAIA. With 96 each, Ranger and Tsuneishi's long-range production ranked second in the single-season record book, just three back of Meghan O'Donogue's 99 in the 2005-06 season.

"Maud made so many clutch baskets for us this year," praised Moore. "She relished the tight game and the big moment. That is what you want from a senior. I think it was that mentality that helped our relatively young team rise to the challenge in so many close games and finish with wins.

"Maud was one of three captains for us along with Lauren Tsuneishi and Syd Brown. All of them, by nature, are leaders by example who do the right things, have an incredible work ethic, do it for their teammates and are unselfish.

"I am really proud of Maud for how, over her four years, she grew in maturity into becoming our vocal leader. She was the voice in the huddle for us and the voice that people followed. She learned what was important to say and how to say it. She was a phenomenal leader for us."

Ranger finished her career ranked third in career 3-point field goals made (251), eighth in career 3-point field goal percentage (.358), eighth in career rebounds (605) and third in career minutes played (3,504).

Berberabe was second on the team in scoring at 11.90 points per game and first in steals at 2.28 per game, which ranked second in the GSAC.

"Stefanie is one of the most, if not the most, dynamic player in the NAIA with her ability to do things on the court that you don't think possible," observed Moore. "She blows my mind every day - not just in games but in practice – because she always plays that hard. She is small and unassuming in nature, until she gets out there on the court. Then, she seems to be everywhere and can do a little bit of everything."

Berberabe dished 128 assists this season (4.41 per game) while also posting a .453 field goal percentage.

"Offensively, she is dynamic in that she can attack the basket, she can hit a mid-range shot – which she did in a lot of key moments this year – and she can also knock down threes. She is our most tenacious defender as well."

"Unfortunately, she was injured in the middle of the year," said Moore. "Otherwise, I think she might have been in one of the top three All-American teams. She is super deserving of this award.

"As she got healthier toward the end of the year, you saw how Stefanie could take over games and completely change the dynamic that is happening on the floor. In a lot of our non-conference games, when we had some of our biggest wins, her never-give-up-attitude was so contagious. Whether it was our come-from-behind win against Shawnee State (Ohio) or our double-overtime win over Antelope Valley or our big win against The Master's for the conference tournament, she was remarkable in some clutch moments this year. She has this unrelenting feistiness on the floor that never gives up and helps us win games. "

Westmont's .900 winning percentage this season was the best in program history. The Warriors won the GSAC Tournament Championship for an unprecedented fifth time in a row and were poised to make their 20th trip to the NAIA National Championship and tenth in a row.

Article courtesy of Westmont Athletics

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Mike Klan

Mike Klan is the sports director for KEYT|KCOY|KKFX.