MONTECITO, Calif. - After having five games either canceled or postponed, Westmont men’s basketball made its long-awaited regular season opener on Friday. The Warriors will have to wait even longer for their first win of the campaign after falling to Concordia University Irvine in double overtime, 101-99.
“I'm proud of our guys for never giving up,” Westmont head coach Landon Boucher said. “Concordia is a really good defensive basketball team, so I'm proud of our guys for scoring 99 against a team like that, even if it was two overtimes.”
Boucher was making his Warriors head coaching debut taking over for the retired John Moore.
After taking a five-point advantage into halftime, Westmont extended that to a game-high 13 with 12:08 remaining in the second half after a couple steals sparked the Warriors in transition.
“When our team decides to play defense, we are really good because we're fast,” Boucher said. “We were able to rebound or get some steals and we made transition baskets out of it.”
However, Concordia fought back to take its largest lead of the game, 77-72, with 1:30 left to play. Down by three, the Warriors missed a shot, giving the Eagles a chance to put the game to bed. But two missed free throws gave Westmont a new life, which Cade Roth took full advantage of, draining a deep 3-pointer with just over a second remaining to send the game to overtime.
"It was clutch, but I expect Cade to make big plays like that,” Boucher said. “He's that good."
Westmont carried that momentum into the first overtime period, as Ajay Singh put the Warriors up by four just two minutes into the extra frame. But the Eagles came back to take a 92-90 lead with 30 seconds to go. A Westmont turnover gave Concordia the ball back with 10 seconds left, but Abram Carrasco stole the inbounds pass and laid it in to tie the game, ultimately forcing a second overtime.
The Warriors were not as fortunate in the second overtime, trailing for the entire period, while a late turnover this time proved costly. The turnover allowed the Eagles to ice the game with two free throws, meaning Singh’s buzzer-beating layup was mere consolation.
“They're extremely well-coached for being such a new team,” Boucher said of Westmont’s NCAA Division II opponent. “I thought they were organized defensively and they're really athletic. I anticipated it being a close game like this, which is why I scheduled this game.”
Carrasco tied for a game-high 28 points and led all players with six steals.
"He never gave up,” Boucher said of the reigning Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year. “Bram had a 6-foot-8 guy on him the whole game, but he found ways to get into the key and make plays. I think that he can still get a lot better.
“That's the good thing about this team is that Bram and the team can continue to get better. This being our second game, is a good sign."
Westmont senior transfer Singh was another bright spot, tallying 27 points, including 17 in the second half. Roth was the third Warrior to score in double figures, recording 18 points along with eight rebounds.
Boucher also highlighted the play of Tyler Austin (six points, six rebounds) and Tristan Lloyd, who was second on the team with seven points in the first half.
“Tyler Austin and Tristan (Lloyd) both played well off the bench,” Boucher said. “Ajay (Singh) had a great second half.
“You can say that we have the same team as last year, but we're such a different team in many aspects. Having Jordan Spaschak and Justin Bessard move on, we're still trying to figure it out, like many teams are, with so few games.”
Westmont’s next scheduled game is its GSAC opener on Jan. 9 against Vanguard. However, the Warriors are attempting to schedule additional games before that.
Article courtesy of Westmont Athletics.