For The Master’s University’s women’s basketball team’s 6-foot-6 sophomore center, Stephanie Soares, playing alongside her sister and Master’s junior Jessica has always held special meaning.
In the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s home contest against La Sierra University at The MacArthur Center, Stephanie and Jessica shared a moment as Stephanie dribbled down the court to find Jessica for an assist and an easy layup to give TMU a 47-point advantage.
“We’ve always played against each other so it’s really fun to play with her and be able to pass her the ball in the post and just see her do what she does best,” Stephanie said of playing with her sister.
Stephanie finished the contest with a game-high 28 points and had nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks, while Jessica finished with two points, two rebounds and two assists in the Mustangs’ 90-48 victory over the Golden Eagles.
The win is the second against La Sierra (7-5, 0-0 CAL PAC) in under a month, and the Mustangs’ 18th straight home win dating back to last season.
As the No. 3 ranked team in the DI Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 poll, TMU (13-0 overall, 3-0 Golden State Athletic Conference), stifled the La Sierra University offense from the opening tip, stealing the ball four times in the opening quarter and 15 times by the final whistle.
With Stephanie commanding the paint on both ends of the floor and Sabrina Thompson, Brooke Bailey and Madi Hull’s active hands along the perimeter, the Mustangs held a 22-11 advantage after one quarter of play.
“I thought we scrambled pretty well. I just didn’t think we made the extra play very much,” said The Master’s head coach Dan Waldeck. “We were making primary plays, primary side, first-pass denials, but not the second or third. Thankfully, we just kept getting more rhythm and by the end, we were making rotation after rotation after rotation.”
With Stephanie drawing the majority of the La Sierra’s defensive attention, senior guard Hannah Ostrom went to work cleaning up the offensive glass and scored nine of her 19 points in the quarter.
At the half the Mustangs led by 21, up 44-23.
Holding the Golden Eagles to just 15.4% shooting in the third quarter, TMU cranked up the intensity on both sides of the ball allowing the visitors to score a game-low eight points, while pouring in a game-high 27 points in the quarter.
The Mustangs’ bench scored 14 of the 27 points in the frame with Caitlin Monten, Tristan Coltom, Anika Neuman and Hull leading the charge.
“We know that game in and game out we have a lot of depth,” Waldeck said. “Being able to use that depth is a gigantic advantage for us. Not only do we have the talent, but we have depth on the bench. We don’t have reserves we have game-changers and today the game-changers changed the game and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
Holding a 40-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Mustangs underclassmen Katelyn Saulog, Kaleigh Moss, Kelsey Zelenski and Olivia Prettyman put in their share in the win, but it wasn’t their scoring prowess that impressed.
“I thought, honestly, the best thing was the defensive rotations, they were scrambling,” Waldeck said. “I think they have a lot of confidence, they play against those starters everyday in practice so they know how good they are. The last three games they’ve been able to get some opportunities because we know that there’s going to be points in time that we are going to need them more and I’ve been proud of how they have been ready.”
The four combined to finish with two points, four rebounds, two steals in the final quarter of play.
Master’s takes a break for the holidays and hosts Olivet Nazarene University on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 2 p.m.