Santa Barbara, CA -- Less than 24 hours after a furious rally fell short in a loss to No. 6 Freed Hardeman, The Master's College turned the tables Saturday afternoon, holding off 18th-ranked Carroll of Montana down the stretch to win 59-56 on the final day of the CHM Hotels Invitational played on the campus of Westmont College.
After splitting a pair of games on the Central Coast this weekend against a couple of NAIA national championship contenders, the Mustangs return to Santa Clarita with a 4-2 record.
Up 55-47 with 2:17 left to play following a Kelly Burns' (Yorba Linda) jumper, the Mustangs watched as the Saints' Katie Estey and Kaye Bignell combined for five straight points to slice the deficit to three points 1:40 later.
Playing desperately, the Saints immediately fouled Whitney Best (Snohomish, WA) and the junior guard calmly sank both free throws with 35 seconds left on the clock. Estey missed a chance to tie the game with nine ticks left on the clock when her three-point attempt failed and the Saints fouled Zoe Scott, hoping that the senior guard would miss and give them one more chance.
However, the senior guard dashed that hope and gave her team some insurance when she converted two free tosses for a 59-54 advantage with eight seconds left. All a Bignell layup did five seconds later was provide the final score.
Playing without All-American Jacquelyn Marshall (a minor injury), the Mustangs spotted the Saints the first two points of the game and then used a Scott jumper and a Millie Rivera (Allen, TX) three-point play to rip off five straight points at the 17:49 mark of the first half.
The Saints answered back with a game-tying (5-5) three-pointer from Kalee Junkermier and for the next 12 minutes, no more than three points separated the clubs. In that window, the squads combined for a pair of ties and five lead changes. The three-point lead was enjoyed by the Mustangs when Megan Lindsley's (Vancouver, WA) layup with 7:54 remaining in the half gave them a 16-13 edge.
Estey answered single-handedly, draining a three-pointer to tie the game and then putting the Saints ahead with a pair of free throws at the 5:15 mark. That 18-16 advantage lasted all of 32 seconds as Scott hit from long range to send the Mustangs back in front. That trey also ignited a half-closing 12-4 run that the Mustangs used to take a 28-22 lead at the intermission. Rivera and Olivia Thompson (Huntington Beach, CA) contributed trifectas to the burst as did a Burns' basket and a Bianca Cubello (Jurupa Valley, CA) free throw.
On the strength of a Rivera charity toss and a Burns' layup, the Mustangs enjoyed a pair of seven-point leads in the first three minutes of the second stanza, but the Saints marched back in the game with a 7-1 run that closed the deficit to 32-31 with 14:57 showing on the clock.
The Saints would get no closer the rest of the way although they threatened to do so on a number of occasions. This time, Burns nailed a jumper and Rivera scored on a layup to make it a 36-31 game. When the Saints closed to 36-34, Nicole Nitake (Torrance, CA) responded with a trey for another five-point lead and when the Saints converted a layup to make it 39-36, Cubello put one in off the class, starting a 6-0 skein that ballooned the lead to a game-high nine points (45-36) with 9:33 left to play.
The advantage jumped to double figures (49-38) 1:21 later when Cubello scored on another layup. However, the game was far from over as the Saints started a methodical march back, scoring five straight points to get within six and then making it too close for comfort in the closing minutes.
The Mustangs outshot the Saints 40%-37% but the biggest number of the evening came in the turnover category where they committed only six miscues compared to the Saints' 18.
Rivera paced the Mustangs with 12 points while Burns, making her first start of the season in Marshall's absence, threw in 11 more. Cubello came off the bench to yank down a team-high five rebounds while tossing in seven points.
Impressed with his team's grit and play, head coach Dan Waldeck commented, "This was a great team win against the nation's 18th-ranked squad especially with Jacqui (Marshall) sitting out."
Looking to build on this win, the Mustangs return to action on Tuesday evening when they host William Jessup in a 5:30pm start on Bross Court.