With two minutes left in a game against Westmont College on Saturday, The Master’s University’s Brooke Bailey stood beneath the hoop, doubled over. It wasn’t in pain. It wasn’t in frustration. It was in celebration.
Bailey had just snatched an offensive rebound and sent the ball through the hoop, earning an and-one opportunity in the process.
“Oh my gosh,” Bailey said. “I saw the ball come off the rim and I was like, oh, an opportunity to get an offensive rebound and put it back up and it took a while to come back in the hoop, but it went in the hoop.”
The sequence of events not only kept the Mustangs in the lead but shut down the Warriors’ hopes of a comeback as TMU went on to win the game 58-48.
The contest was primed to be a close one, with Master’s (14-4 overall, 6-1 in GSAC) entering as the top team in the Golden State Athletic Conference and No. 21 in the NAIA, while Westmont was the second-place team in the GSAC and the No. 15 team in the NAIA.
“All we’re trying to do is plant seeds for the next day and someday it’s going to water and so what we’re trying to do is grow that every day,” said coach Dan Waldeck. “Just get a little bit better, a little bit better and think our team has taken it to heart. We only look at who we’re playing, we’re just trying to get better.”
Westmont (12-5, 5-2) brought with it a suffocating style of defense that allowed the Mustangs only a two-point advantage at the end of the first quarter at 9-7.
Jamilee Iddings drained a 3-pointer at the start of the second quarter to get TMU some scoring momentum. Westmont’s Kaitlin Larson countered with a layup, but Bailey and Soares powered through offensively to keep the Mustangs ahead. Bailey scored eight points and Soares four to bring the score to 24-14 in Master’s favor by halftime.
“They were really great defenders,” Soares said. “We knew that from the start, they’re very physical. They play hard and you just have to get to the rim hard. Be mentally prepared for that.”
After being held to just 14 points in the first half, the Warriors broke free to score 14 in the third to set themselves up for a fourth quarter filled with 3-pointers.
Soares nailed a jumper to open the frame and put the Mustangs up 42-28. Less than a minute later, Westmont went on to score 12 straight points on 3-point shots, two of which were made by Lauren Tsuneishi. The guard ended the night 4-for-9 from 3-point range.
“We’re fortunate enough that they weren’t hitting them in the beginning, but when they did hit them, we just stayed composed and say we’ve got to just defend the 3, defend the 3,” Bailey said.
“Our team is very resilient though, so we had confidence in each other that we’re going to keep them off the 3-point line. But we really had to guard them after that.”
TMU was able to take advantage of some free throws to get in control of the game again at 45-41 with five minutes left in the game.
Anika Neuman went in for a layup, then Hannah Forrar corralled an offensive rebound for another two points before Bailey executed her o-board-layup combination.
“They’re so dangerous from the 3-point line, they’re so good,” said Waldeck of Westmont. “So well-coached, we just said we’ve got to contest a little harder, I thought we were a little bit lazy on our contest. And we just had to make quicker adjustments in the zone and we did.”
Neuman led all shooters with 14 points, while Soares recorded a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Bailey added 13 points.
Up next for Master’s is another top-25 matchup on Thursday. The Mustangs will travel to Vanguard for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off.