By Mason Nesbitt
For The Signal
Coach Kelvin Starr said TMU men’s basketball would need a strong effort from a particular trio if they were to beat rival Westmont College on Saturday.
The unit delivered.
Senior Delewis Johnson scored 21 points, and Hansel Atencia and Tim Soares both contributed double-doubles in The Master’s University’s 88-66 win over the Warriors inside The MacArthur Center.
Before a mostly full crowd, the No. 6-ranked Mustangs (16-2) went on a crushing 30-7 run to close the first half and led by as many as 28 after the break.
Johnson, Atencia and Soares, three of the team’s veteran leaders, were crucial.
For Johnson, it was the fourth time in the last six games he’s reached at least 20 points. Last week, the senior was named the Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Week, and he has continued to have that kind of impact.
“When he does his thing, he’s unstoppable,” said Soares.
Soares, for his part, was a force at both ends of the floor.
Starr said earlier in the week that junior’s assertiveness would be key to the Mustangs securing their 31st straight home win and eighth straight overall.
Soares, at 6-foot-10, responded by producing 15 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks in what was his team-leading ninth double-double of the year.
Atencia was the distributor. The senior point guard, an honorable mention NAIA All-American a year ago and a player on pace to repeat that feat, dished out 11 assists to go with 11 points.
The assists matched a career high. He recorded 11 assists twice as a sophomore in 2016-17.
His two steals on Saturday pushed his number to 41 – third most in the country and already a career high.
It didn’t hurt either Saturday that junior Darryl McDowell-White had one of his finest nights as a Mustang. The guard made 9-of-11 shots, 5-of-5 from three-point range and finished with a game-high 23 points. His point total matched the career high he set last season against Montana Western. That, however, was a non-conference game in December.
This was a GSAC game against Westmont in January.
“It was up there,” McDowell-White said of where this game ranked among his most fun at Master’s. “Playing Westmont, it meant something. Playing as a team and the way we got the win, that meant something as well.”
The road doesn’t get any easier from here. The Mustangs will travel to Costa Mesa on Thursday to take on Vanguard University (17-1, 5-1 GSAC) at 7:30 p.m. in a game that will be streamed
live at GoMustangs.com.
Master’s currently sits in a first-place tie in conference standings with Vanguard and Hope International. Needless to say, there will be a lot on the line.
The Mustangs will then return home Saturday to host Life Pacific College at 7:30 p.m.
A benchmark win
TMU women’s basketball’s 58-48 win over No. 15 Westmont on Saturday at TMU was the program’s first win over the Warriors since 2014.
The No. 21-ranked Mustangs (14-4, 6-1 in GSAC) have now won six games in a row and sit in a first-place tie with Arizona Christian in conference standings.
The biggest factor in their surge has been an incredible stretch of defense.
TMU has held six of its last eight opponents to fewer than 50 points. And the Mustangs rank second in NAIA Division 1 in opponents’ field goal percentage (31%) and seventh in scoring
defense (52.2 ppg).
It hasn’t hurt either that Brooke Bailey has found her touch from long distance. The team’s leader in three-pointers made last season, Bailey has been on target in the squad’s last two games, making seven of her last 13 tries from beyond the arc.
Freshman Stephanie Soares recorded her 14th double-double of the season against Westmont. She leads the country in that category.
Master’s hosting Winter 5K on Saturday
The Master’s University will host its ninth annual 5K run/walk on Saturday on its Newhall campus. The school is expecting between 250 and 300 participants.
The race will go off at 9 a.m.
Registration will remain open until the event sells out, at $35 per runner.
“Hosting the community on TMU’s campus is always a personal highlight,” said TMU cross country and track and field coach Zach Schroeder. “Thanks to our generous sponsors, we have some great participant swag this year that will make this event the best yet. This event is unique because it is the only race that highlights the Quigley Canyon Open Space and TMU’s beautiful campus.”
For more information or to register, visit GoMustangs.com/winter-5k.