MONTECITO, Calif. - After not playing a game in front of their home fans since March 6, 2020, the Westmont Warriors (1-0) gave their crowd much to cheer about in their return on Thursday night, by defeating Bethesda (0-3) 106-82.
After taking a 50-38 lead into halftime, the Warriors ran away with things in the second half, largely due to their work on the glass. At the end of the night, Westmont out-rebounded Bethesda 53-28.
"In all the right ways, it felt different tonight," said Westmont head coach Landon Boucher. "Having fans, having my family in the crowd, and having our players' families in the crowd was really fun to see.
"On the court, winning the rebound battle was one of our main keys going in. They had a ton of rebounds in their previous two games, so it was encouraging to see our guys take it to them on the glass, and both ends of the court as well."
An Ajay Singh layup opened the season for the Warriors who began the night on a 12-4 run going into Bethesda's first timeout.
By the next stoppage in play, Westmont had grown their lead to 28-17, thanks to some hot shooting from Nate Meithof, who scored nine points early on in his Warrior debut. Another layup by Singh gave the senior 10 points in the first half and also put the club up 36-25 with 6:09 left to play in the period. Singh shot five of six from the field up to that point in play.
Three minutes later, Singh had put another seven points up and the Warriors led 44-31 with 3:18 to play. At the end of the half, Westmont's offense had slowed down with an opportunity to put some breathing room between them and the Flames. Instead, Westmont settled for a 50-38 advantage at the end of the period.
During the first half, Westmont had three scorers in double-figures with Singh leading the way with 17. Junior guard Jared Brown also collected 11 points in the half while leading the club with five assists. Kyler Warren, in his Westmont debut, led the club with five rebounds during the period.
As a team, Westmont outrebounded Bethesda 25-12 during the period, and the Warriors were especially stingy on defense, where they did not surrender a single offensive board to the Flames. The lone category that did not favor Westmont was turnovers, where the Warriors had committed 10 compared to Bethesda's seven.
"I felt like we were holding the lead right at 12," noted Boucher. "We had many opportunities to break it to 20 but we took too many quick shots, and credit to their shooters for keeping them within striking distance at the end of that half."
Four minutes into the second half, Meithof threw down a dunk that gave him 15 points, and also widened the Warrior lead to 62-44. On the club's next possession, Singh reached 20 points, and in doing so built Westmont's lead to 20 points as well.
Jalen Townsell, another Warrior making his Westmont debut, converted a layup with 12:06 to play, getting himself in double-figures going into a timeout. By the next timeout, Townsell had 15 points and the Warriors led 82-64.
With 5:32 left to play, Brown put a Flame's guard on roller skates en route to a layup that gave the junior 22 points on the night and built the Warrior lead back to 20 at 89-69.
Singh's big night continued with 3:14 to play, as another layup gave the senior 27 points on the evening, and stretched Westmont's lead to 96-73. A minute later, Singh converted a layup, got fouled, and converted the free throw, giving him an even 30 points and pushing the Warriors past the century mark.
Moments later, the Warriors officially put their opening night game in the win column, as they defeated Bethesda 106-82.
Singh led all scorers with his even 30, while also adding six rebounds and three assists. Townsell was the lone Warrior to collect a double-double with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, while Brown led the club with six assists.
As a team, the Warriors finished with a field goal percentage of .587, while holding the Flames to a .408 clip.
"Ajay was really efficient in his scoring tonight," said Boucher. "He was 14 of 16 from the field. That means he was taking smart shots. We also had 24 assists which led to those easier shots. Jalen off the bench was really good. He had six offensive rebounds and had a big momentum-swinging block. He did a little bit of everything.
"The only thing offensively we need to work on is cutting our turnover ratio down and hitting our free throws."
The Warriors return to the court on Tuesday night, when they host West Coast Baptist at 6:00 p.m. in Murchison Gym. Tickets are available on the Westmont Athletics website.
"Going into Tuesday, our defense needs to make strides," said Boucher. "Offensively, we could have played better and we still scored 106. Overall, we have to take this win, but also learn from it, and hopefully come out better on Tuesday."
Article courtesy of Westmont College Athletics