MONTECITO, Calif. - Stefanie Berberabe scored 13 points and Aleena Cook added 11 more as #2 Westmont Women's Basketball (3-0) defeated the Gold Nuggets of Xavier (La.) (1-1) by a score of 61-45 in Murchison Gymnasium on Thursday night.
Berberabe added five steals and three assists to her stat totals while Cook pulled down five rebounds, including four from the offensive glass.
With the victory, the Warriors provided head coach Kirsten Moore with the 400th win of her storied career. Moore, who is in her 18th year leading the Warriors, has a record of 400-128, for a winning percentage of .758. Her teams have won two national titles and Golden State Athletic Conference championships in nine different years.
"I think what it shows is the consistency of success that this program has had," said Moore. "If anything, it is indicative that I have coached some phenomenal young women over my time here at Westmont and I have had amazing assistant coaches that have helped me along the way. I am grateful for all the Warriors and assistant coaches past and present."
The victory marked the first time that Westmont has defeated Xavier (La.). Their last meeting was in the first round of the 2014 NAIA National Championship in which the Gold Nuggets prevailed 66-53.
"It was great to play a national tournament caliber team and be challenged with their level of physicality, athleticism, and the pressure with which they play defense. I thought we handled that phenomenally in the first half. It always starts with our defense, and our defense in the first half was great. We didn't give them anything easy and didn't let them get loose on the o-boards. We came into halftime in a really good place."
Down 7-2 four minutes into the game, Westmont reeled off a 10-0 run to end the first quarter of play. After a jumper by Cook, Laila Saenz (8 points, 4 steals) knocked down a three to tie the game at seven. Destiny Okonkwo (7 points, 9 rebounds), drained a couple of free throws before Cook hit another jumper and Saenz added a free throw.
In the second frame, Westmont outscored Xavier 21-9 with Berberabe going four-for-four from the field and making her only free throw attempt of the game. Sydney Brown (8 points, 5 rebounds) added six points in the second quarter on three field goals.
"Stef led us in all aspects with her presence and her confidence against the pressure," noted Moore. "They were trying to trap her all over the court, but she handled that so well, getting other people open looks."
Xavier would find its bearing in the second half, though they were unable to reduce the point differential below 10.
"With a good team like Xavier, you know they are going to make some runs," explained Moore. "So, we were trying to keep them at bay and not let any of those runs get out of control in the second half. They sure did make some runs, but I thought we staved them off and responded when we needed to."
The Warriors won the battle of the boards 45-35, turning 22 offensive rebounds into a 16-7 advantage in second chance points. Westmont also forced 25 turnovers by the Gold Nuggets, including 15 steals.
"Our inside game was working well tonight. We were able to go inside and get it done on the boards. Our posts are starting to play with a lot of great presence and togetherness. I see great potential in our post game for this year.
"Between the turnovers and the rebounding, that is a lot of possessions. We needed it tonight on a night when we didn't shoot the ball very well from the perimeter or from the free throw line."
Before starting Golden State Athletic Conference play next week, Westmont will host Southern Oregon (4-0) on Saturday night in a battle of undefeated teams. Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.
(Article courtesy of Westmont Athletics)