FULLERTON, Calif. -- The Lady Mustangs closed the regular season in style, beating Hope International 67-46 in Fullerton.
The No. 11 Lady Mustangs (25-4, 10-4) finished the regular season, winning three in a row and securing the No. 3 seed in the upcoming GSAC Tournament. That third slot gives the Mustangs a bye into the quarterfinals on Wednesday when they will host either Hope International or Biola, who play a first-round game Monday evening.
Right from the start, the Lady Mustangs left little doubt, reeling off the contest's first eight points and never looking back in beating the Royals for the second time this year. Sophomore guard Whitney Best (Snohomish, WS) triggered the game-opening burst with a three-pointer, Jacquelyn Marshall (San Clemente, CA) added a jumper, and Lena Rivera (Allen, TX) capped it off on a three-point play.
Hope's Krystal Canning stopped the surging Mustangs temporarily with a basket but Rivera fueled a quick, 6-0 skein with a hoop and the guests enjoyed a 14-2 lead after Kelly Burns (Yorba Linda, CA) hit a pair of free throws with 12:37 left in the opening half.
Displaying no let-up, the Lady Mustangs kept attacking, outscoring the Royals 15-10 over the next seven minutes to extend the advantage to 29-12 on a Zoe Scott (Spirit Lake, ID) trifecta with 5:24 remaining. Kimmy Iverson used the same method to key the Lady Mustang run, draining a pair of three-pointers in a 49-second window to snuff out a budding Royal royal.
After allowing a couple of Royal free throws with just under four minutes left in the stanza, the Lady Mustangs closed out the half by holding the hosts scoreless over the final 3:54 while tallying six points themselves to take a 35-16 lead into the break. Marshall sparked the half-closing burst with a jumper while Burns' two layups gave her team the largest lead of the game to that point.
Paced by Marshall, Burns, and Iverson, who had six points apiece, the Lady Mustangs shot 41% from the field during the opening 20 minutes while holding the Royals to a paltry 21% mark.
The Royals improved their accuracy considerably in the second half (41%) but the Lady Mustangs continued to put more distance between themselves and the hosts despite shooting just 38% in the final stanza.. Two Marshall free throws in the first minute of the closing half gave the Lady Mustangs their first 20-point plus lead (37-16) of the evening and the Royals never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way.
The last margin of that kind came at 47-31 with 10:55 remaining but the Lady Mustangs dashed any thought of a miraculous comeback by ripping off 10 consecutive points in less than three minutes. Iverson, who buried a game-high four three-pointers, started things with her final trifecta of the evening, Scott followed with another three, and Lena Rivera and Burns added hoops for a 57-31 advantage with 7:27 left to play.
The Lady Mustangs enjoyed the game's largest advantage (26 points) once more at 59-33 and cruised to the win. The Lady Mustangs wound up converting 39% of their shots while limiting the Royals to 31% shooting.
Marshall and Iverson paced the Lady Mustangs with 12 points apiece and 11 rebounds from the former gave the junior forward her seventh double-double of the campaign. Rivera contributed nine points and six rebounds, and Burns tossed in eight points and yanked down seven caroms.
Now, the Lady Mustangs turn their attention to the "second season", hoping to extend their magical season through the conference tournament and into the NAIA National Tournament in March. Wednesday night's quarterfinal game against Biola, who split a pair of games with the Mustangs this year, or Hope International will start at 7:30 pm in Bross Gym.
GSAC Women's Basketball News:
In other GSAC action, Biola fell to No. 4 Westmont 55-49, No. 7 Vanguard defeated (RV) San Diego Christian 76-49, while Concordia topped Arizona Christian 85-74.