Westmont loses in Round of 16 at NAIA National Tournament
SIOUX CITY, Iowa. - The Westmont Women's Basketball season ended today with a 68-57 loss to Marian (29-5) of Indiana in the Round of 16. The Warriors (25-4) were the second seed in the Naismith quadrant while the Knights were the third seed.
"Credit to Marian," said Westmont head coach Kirsten Moore. "We knew from watching film how strong of a team they were. Their physicality and length made it really hard for us to find open looks. Everything we did get was tough and hard fought for."
Marian opened up the game on a 10-1 run and Westmont spent the rest of the game trying to catch up. Unfortunately, the Warriors were unable to pull even. Westmont's first field goal came six minutes into the game on a jumper by Stefanie Berberabe. Fifteen seconds later, Sage Kramer scored in the paint to cut Westmont's deficit to five (10-5).
Marian responded by scoring six of the next eight points to go up 16-7. At the end of the first quarter, Kramer beat the buzzer with the Warriors' first triple of the game, to make the score 16-10.
Kinnidy Garrard and Abbey McNally hit back-to-back jumpers to start the second quarter off and give the Knights a 20-10 advantage. However, the Warriors struck back with a jumper by Destiny Okonkwo and another 3-point bucket by Kramer to make it a 20-15 game.
Kramer's three, however, was immediately answered in kind by Ella Collier to restore an eight-point lead to the Knights. Twice more in the second quarter, the Warriors pulled within five but would end the half with a seven-point deficit (31-24).
"It was an uncharacteristic first half in terms of the number of turnovers," said Moore. The Warriors committed 10 turnovers in the first 20 minutes to the Knights' five.
Marian increased its lead in the third quarter to lead by 13 points at the end of the penultimate period. In the fourth, they stretched their advantage to 19 (62-43) on a 3-pointer by Allison Bosse with 6:09 remaining on the clock.
Though the Warriors would outscore the Knights 14-5 in the final six minutes of play, it was not enough to erase the deficit.
Berberabe led the team in scoring with 18 points and also contributed five rebounds and five assists. Okonkwo notched her third double-double of the season, tallying 10 points and 14 rebounds. Kramer dialed up 13 points and five rebounds while Sydney Brown added seven points and 10 rebounds.
"We only have a few people that were on the court that have been in the national tournament here before," noted Moore. "With the amount of injuries to returners that we have had, there were a lot of new faces. For a majority of our team, it was the first time we have been in this environment."
Brown and Berberabe saw their Westmont careers come to an end with tonight's game. Both made a profound impact on the record books.
Berberabe is the Warrior's career scoring leader with 1,752 points. She ranks third in career points per game at 13.1 and first in field goals made (685).
As anyone who has watched her knows, she is not just a scorer. Her 601 career assists ranks second in the record books, just 16 shy of the record held by Amber Stevens (2006-10). She also ranks second in steals at 325.
Brown's 849 career rebounds and her 7.9 boards per game is the third best of any Warrior. She finished fifth in career blocks with 73 and fourth in career starts (106). With tonight's totals, Brown has tallied 905 career points, 19th best in Westmont history.
"Stef and Syd have led and contributed in their own ways both on the court and off the court," observed Moore while holding back tears. "Also, Ebun Kalejaiye has been with our program for four years and has been an incredible servant leader. I am filled with gratitude for the loyalty and commitment of those three to come back and teach this next generation of Warriors what this looks like.
"We were in the locker room and they just didn't want to take their jerseys off. To me, that is the biggest win. They loved being Warriors and are grateful for who they became and how they grew as Warriors. They have maximized the opportunity and experience at Westmont in all ways and they made everyone around them better. I think those are wins - a lot bigger than the scoreboard - that they will have with them for life and we will have with us as a program, moving forward. They have poured into their teammates to keep that legacy going.
"I think our returners are going to learn a lot from tonight's game and use it as fuel moving forward in ways that we can continue to grow. That is the biggest way that we can honor these seniors who have been extraordinary in every possible way."
(Courtesy of Westmont Athletics)