Santa Clarita, CA- Hope International used their defense to hold back The Master's 73-66 in the GSAC opener for both teams on Tuesday night. Senior Kris Rosales paced the offense with 21 points and 4 assists. Junior Jeremy Kilgore finished the night with a game high 22 points.
On the first possession for the Mustangs (11-5, 0-1 GSAC), the Royals (16-1, 1-0 GSAC) flexed their defensive muscle as Senior Orlando Collins blocked the first shot of the game. The Master's would take the lead, however, with a three pointer just seconds later.
Freshman Garrett Neilan drilled his first shot of the contest- a three pointer- to tie the score at 3-3.
TMC would go on to build a 22-13 lead with 9:40 to play in the first half.
But HIU dug in defensively and outscored TMC 17-11 the remainder of the opening 20 minutes. A Kilgore three pointer made the score 31-30 before the Mustangs scored in the paint to take their 33-30 lead to the locker room.
Rosales was nothing short of impressive as he led everyone with 12 points on 6-7 shooting in the first 20 minutes. Kilgore was second with seven points.
The HIU coaching staff obviously preached stepping on defense evermore in the locker room because they came out and smothered the Mustangs.
Rosales picked the pocket of TMC's Devin Dyer and was off to the races for a fast break layup for the first basket of the second half. The Royals forced a tough shot by the Mustangs on their next possession. Neilan grabbed the defensive board and found Kilgore out in front of the pack for another fast break layup to give HIU a brief 34-33 edge.
The Mustangs answered and would go on to build a 49-43 lead.
Neilan countered with a three pointer that started a 7-0 HIU run to move back ahead 50-49.
The next four combined baskets resulted in four lead changes. The fourth shot was an off balanced three pointer from Neilan from straight away with a hand in his face. Freshman Jimmy Jackson earned the assist on that three. That gave HIU a 55-54 edge and the Royals would not trail the rest of the game.
The defense led by Rosales pressuring Dyer all the way up the floor with everyone rotating nicely behind allowed HIU to build as large as a 10 point lead on two free throws from Kilgore.
Kilgore scored 15 second half points to reach his 22 while Neilan added 10 points after the break (13 points total). Collins also finished in double figures with 13 points.
Neilan led everyone with a career high 10 rebounds in the game to record his first collegiate double-double.
Dyer led the Mustangs with 16 points.
After the game, Rosales commented about going head to head with Dyer and the big momentum swing with the Royals down by six, "I have been going head-to-head with Dyer since we were Freshmen. When we play TMC it is a defensive struggle. We upped our pressure and got turnovers. Garrett hit some big shots to us back in the game and then we got them on their heals."
Assistant Coach Bill Carter added, "Every game with The Master's is a great battle. They run a great offense and have great shooters from three. We are very happy the way we defended and the effort we gave. We feel good about the win. Now we need to prepare for Concordia."
Come Saturday, the Royals will find themselves at Concordia in Irvine for a 7:30 pm tip-off. The Mustangs will travel to Arizona Christian on Saturday for their 7:30 pm game.