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Westmont College races by Antelope Valley in first round game of NAIA National Tournament

Westmont wins first round game in the NAIA National Tournament in women's basketball.

MONTECITO, Calif. - Westmont (24-3) advanced to the second round of the NAIA Women's Basketball National Championship with an 84-62 win over 15th seeded Antelope Valley (23-8) on Tuesday night in Murchison Gymnasium. The Warriors, who are a number two seed in the 64-team tournament, took the lead a minute and four seconds into the game and never trailed again in the extremely physical game.

After Ashley Rio scored the game's first points on a layup, the Warriors responded with a 14-2 run. Laila Saenz drained a 3-pointer, followed by Kate Goostrey who did the same. After another layup by Rio, Saenz landed back-to-back triples. Then, Destiny Okonkwo grabbed an offensive rebound and converted the put-back to give Westmont a 14-4 advantage a little over four minutes into the game.

Kellymar Ramirez laid the ball in the net for the Pioneers, making the score 14-6. Then the game took a difficult turn for the Warriors.

Saenz, dribbling the ball on the offensive end of the court, fell and suffered an injury. She was unable to return to the game.

That did not stop the Warriors' offensive production, however, as Westmont finished out the quarter on a 9-3 run to lead Antelope Valley 23-9 at the end of the first 10 minutes of play. Except for a brief 30 seconds in the second quarter, Westmont would lead by double digits the rest of the game.

The game took more than two hours to play, in part due to the large number of fouls called (30 on Antelope Valley and 20 on Westmont), which was an indicator of the level of physicality with which the game was conducted.

"I am proud to coach a team that handled tonight with as much composure and character as they did," said Westmont's veteran head coach Kirsten Moore. "I could not be more proud of the way that everyone stepped up and did what needed to be done to advance. More than that, they were there for each other and tried to compete to be our best."

At the guard position, Stefanie Berberabe led the Warriors with 19 points and added six rebounds, six assists and four steals. Goostrey produced another 17 points, four rebounds and six assists. Bailey Fong helped fill the gap created by Saenz departure with nine points of her own."

"Kate doesn't back down from any challenge," noted Moore. "You saw that in her eyes. That Kate and Bailey were able to step up and come alongside Stef and handle what was happening on the court with composure was essential."

Inside, Sydney Brown, and Destiny Okonkwo each recorded a double-double. Brown tallied 14 points and 11 rebounds while Okonkwo notched 10 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

"They anchored us in the paint – both defensively getting boards and offensively," expressed Moore. "When the physicality on our guards was so extreme, for us to relieve some of that pressure by going inside and having our posts finish for us was really important. I am so proud of both Destiny and Syd with their efforts on the boards and their double-doubles."

Equally important was the senior leadership supplied by Berberabe and Brown.

"Stef and Syd's leadership is just off the charts," praised Moore. "Obviously, their play is off the charts right now too."

Westmont will take on Southern Oregon (24-7) tomorrow night in the second round of the tournament. The Raiders advanced after rallying from a 29-point, first-half deficit to defeat Wayland Baptist (21-11) of Texas.

The Flying Queens held a 37-8 lead with 5:15 to play in the second quarter. By halftime, the Raiders had reduced that advantage to 45-27. Southern Oregon outscored Wayland Baptist by seven in the third quarter and 13 in the fourth quarter. The Raiders took the lead for the first time with 2.4 seconds to play on a jumper by Kami Walk.

"It is going to be a quick turnaround after such a physical game," said Moore of their next game. "Our biggest thing is to try and regroup physically, mentally and emotionally and try to go into tomorrow and take on a really good opponent."

Tip-off is at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow in Murchison Gymnasium.

(Article courtesy of Westmont Athletics)

Article Topic Follows: College Sports
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Mike Klan

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