IRVINE, Calif.– The NAIA's No. 8-ranked Vanguard held No. 3 Westmont scoreless over the final 5 minutes of play, and Esther Timmermans scored 6 of the game's final 7 points to lead the Lions to a 63-57 upset of regular-season champion Westmont in the championship game of the Golden State Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament at CU Arena on the campus of Concordia, Tuesday evening.
The victory is Vanguard's first in 3 meetings this year with Westmont, which had its 18-game GSAC winning streak snapped.More importantly, the victory gives the Lions the conference's automatic bid into next week's NAIA National Championship.
All-GSAC guard Nicole Ballestero led Vanguard with a game-high 22 points, including 13 in the first half when the Lions scooted out to a 39-31 halftime lead.Timmermans was the only other Lion in double digits, tallying 14 points, including 6 in the final 5 minutes to clinch the victory.
Wesmtont rallied from 10 down in the second half and took its first lead since the early minutes of the game when All-American Tugce Canitez capped a 22-11 Warrior run with a lay-up that put Westmont up 55-54 with 9 minutes remaining.The team traded leads 3 more times until Timmermans gave Vanguard the lead for good at 58-57 with a lay-up with 5:06 left.
From there the Lion defense took over, forcing Westmont to miss its final 7 shots.The Warriors hurt themselves by missing 3 free throws as well.Timmermans, however, made 4 consecutive from the line, including a pair that gave Vanguard an insurmountable 62-57 lead with 41 seconds left in the game.
Canitez led Westmont with 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.Lee added 15 points, including 13 during the second-half run that got the Warriors back into the game.
With the victory Vanguard improves to 23-3.Despite having its record fall to 25-4, Westmont will receive an at-large bid into the NAIA tournament.The bracket will be announced in a free graphical selection show at 5:15 (Pacific time) at www.naia.org. The NAIA Div. I Women's Basketball Championship will take place at Frankfort Convention Center in Frankfort, Kentucky, March 13-19.