SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The Westmont Warriors earned a hard-fought 67-55 GSAC victory over the Eagles of Concordia Tuesday night.
"Concordia always forces you to play a tenacious game," explained Moore. "Our guys played really hard, especially in the second half. I'm so proud how our guys battled and preformed tonight."
Guided by C.J. Miller (26 points, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block), the Warriors commanded the rock early. The senior scored the team's first six points, surpassing 1,300 career points with his opening bucket. He now ranks at 18th all-time (1,326) on Westmont's career scoring list.
"C.J. was very special tonight," remarked Moore. "We talk a lot about 'the will of a warrior' amongst our team, and if there was anyone who epitomized that phrase tonight, it was C.J. He left everything on the floor and played a near-perfect game."
Over the first 10 minutes, the Warriors' defense reigned supreme. The squad's collective efforts forced three turnovers and held Concordia scoreless for the first four and a half minutes.
With nine minutes remaining in the initial half, Westmont possessed an 18-9 advantage. Still employing hard-nosed defense, the Warriors held the Eagles to less than a point-per-minute via six forced turnovers and three blocks.
However, at the 6:10 mark, Concordia would embark on a 10-3 run. By the time that the clock read 3:40, Westmont found themselves trailing (24-23) for the first time on the evening.
The chaotic first half featured only one free-throw attempt, a tremendously large quantity of turnovers (23 total, 15 by Westmont), and only 13 assists (eight by the Warriors). Nonetheless, even with their erratic play over the last nine minutes, Westmont garnered a 25-24 lead at the break.
Miller came out the intermission focused and poised to score more. After notching 11 points over the game's first 20 minutes, Miller conducted a 21-6 run (11 himself) to get the second 20 underway. With 10 minutes remaining, the Warriors led by 12, 46-34.
Yet, in identical fashion to the latter minutes of the introductory half, Concordia would push to regain the game. With three and a half minutes left on the game clock, the Eagles had cut the contest to six, 55-49.
However, on the Warriors' next possession, senior guard Brendan Hill (8 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists) hit fellow guard Nate Marsing (7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 steals) in the right-hand corner of the baseline. The junior connected on a three-point bucket to extend the gap to nine, essentially deflating the Eagles' comeback bid.
"That was the shot of the night," confirmed Moore. "I was standing right next to him before he shot it, and I just told him, 'relax'. Nate shot it with composure and nailed the biggest shot of his Westmont career."
Junior Daniel Carlin (6 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 1 steal), and seniors Mantas Drungys (6 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) and Jason Ritchey (10 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal) also played an integral part in Westmont's victory.
"It's a great thing whenever you can run your offense through a post guy (Carlin) who can give you good passes that lead to buckets," stated Moore. "Mantas got in foul trouble, but he rebounded well, and played exceptional defense. As far as Jason, he was once again consistent for us," continued Moore.
Westmont (16-11, 5-8 GSAC) now sits alone in seventh place and will host Biola in the final regular-season game. Concordia drops to 19-10, 6-7 GSAC and will play at Arizona Christian next.