SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Torrential rains did not discourage fans from sardining themselves into a "pinked-out," sold-out, Murchison Gymnasium Saturday evening to witness Westmont Men's Basketball's Golden State Athletic Conference regular-season finale against longtime rival No. 25 Biola.
Senior honorees Mantas Drungys, Marcus Farrand, Brendan Hill, C.J. Miller, and Jason Ritchey culminated their Kammerer Court careers in victorious fashion, as the Warriors (17-11, 6-8 GSAC) notched a 65-60 Play 4Kay "Beat Cancer, Beat Biola," senior night triumph over the Eagles (16-14, 6-8).
"A great senior night was aided by a big response from our crowd," remarked Westmont head coach John Moore. "Sometimes the crowd gives you an extra 10 to 15 points, so we owe a big thank you to all of the fans who came to support us tonight."
The victory extended the 46-year series between the two teams to 104 games. Westmont now holds a 55-49 advantage in the series.
Biola rattled off 15 points over the first four and a half minutes of the contest, jumping out to a 15-3 lead by way of a 75 percent (6-of-8) shooting effort. Conversely, Westmont struggled from the field to begin the game, converting on just two of their first 15 attempts (13.3 percent) from the floor.
Undeterred by their lackluster start, the Warriors rallied to condense the deficit via a steady dose of Miller (30 points, 10 rebounds – 7 offensive, 2 blocks, 2 steals), Drungys (8 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals), and junior center Daniel Carlin (12 points, 8 rebounds – 4 offensive, 1 assist, 4 blocks, 1 steal). Overall, the trio accounted for 50 of Westmont's 65 points on the night.
"C.J. was absolutely phenomenal," pronounced Moore. "He's put us on his shoulders the past two games, anchoring two big victories for us. Daniel also had a really nice game, and he and C.J. were key in our rebounding advantage (7: 35-28).
In highlight reel style, Westmont mounted a 20-6 run to retake the lead (23-21). Two monstrous dunks by Carlin, including a technical foul for hanging on the cylinder, erupted Warrior fans, crafting an animated atmosphere that only added to the momentum shift.
The mass energy continued into the intermission, as Westmont completed the half with a 36-30 advantage. Led by Miller (14 first-half points), the Warriors cut the field-goal percentage margin to about seven percent (45.8-38.7). Westmont also created extensive defensive pressure, notching five steals and five blocks over the introductory 20 minutes.
Moore affirmed his team's defensive pursuits, stating, "Our defense is what put us over the top. Brendan and Mantas really pestered their guards – especially Zook. He tore us apart when we played them on the road. Tonight, however, our team got it done on that end of the floor."
Out of the break, the Warriors kept the gym a ruckus, as Miller extended the lead to 10 with a breakaway slam of his own.
Then, with 7:45 left on the game clock, Miller drained a three-point dagger to record his 28th, 29th, and 30th points of the contest, eclipsing his old career-high of 27 (February 21, 2012). The basket stretched Westmont's advantage to 11, 58-47.
Yet, the Eagles would not go down easily, pulling to within five (59-54) over the next four minutes of play.
The same score held up until Biola's Pierre Zook (12 points) nailed a basket from long range with 38 seconds remaining to cut the differential to three.
However, Billy Keller (2 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal) and Hill (2 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal) combined to hit three free throws to drive the lead back to six. Zook then drilled another trey to cut the deficit to three, but Westmont freshman Cory Blau (5 points, 3 rebounds) knocked down two attempts from the charity stripe to salt away the victory for the Warriors.