Santa Clarita, CA -- Two days after securing a spot on the All-GSAC team for the second year in a row, Jacquelyn Marshall showed why she was worthy of such an honor Tuesday evening, scoring a game-high 22 points to lead The Master's College to a wire-to-wire, 77-50 win over visiting San Diego Christian in a GSAC Tournament first-round game.
The victory vaulted the No. 7 Mustangs (23-7) into the tournament semi-finals Friday evening when they'll host 11th-ranked Westmont, a winner over Concordia in another first-round game in Santa Barbara.
A Marshall (San Clemente, CA) layup punctuated a game-opening 8-0 run by the Mustangs that created some early space between the two clubs. Kelly Burns (Yorba Linda, CA) ignited the burst with a layup, Marshall followed with the first of her layups, and Megan Lindsley (Battle Ground, WA) added a pair of free throws.
It was a good start but the Hawks fought back gallantly, drawing to within 13-7 at the 13:05 mark of the first half before the Mustangs scored four straight points on a Bianca Cubello (Riverside, CA) free throw and a Nicole Nitake (Torrance, CA) three-pointer to take their first double-digit lead (17-7) of the evening. It was Nitake's first game back after missing the previous seven contests with an ankle injury.
The Mustangs enjoyed another 10-point lead (19-9) a couple of minutes later, however, the Hawks were proving to be pesky, staying within shouting difference and making the hosts just a little uneasy. The visitors used a 5-0 skein to draw within 22-16 with 6:06 left in the half and were as close as seven points (26-19) until Whitney Best's (Snohomish, WA) steals on consecutive Hawk possessions triggered a game-changing run.
The junior guard's first theft resulted in a Burns' layup, she took the second to the bucket herself, she drained a three-pointer, and then hit a jumper, all part of a half-ending 13-4 burst that sent the Mustangs to the locker room ahead 39-23. Along the way, Marshall canned a pair of charity tosses and Olivia Thompson (Huntington Beach, CA) converted two free throws to cap the skein.
Marshall (13) and Best (nine) combined for 22 first-half points as the Mustangs shot 45% from the field while holding the Hawks to just a tick under 30%.
The Hawks turned that accuracy around in the first four minutes of the second half, hitting four of their first five shots en route to an 11-2 run that more than halved the deficit, pulling the visitors to within 41-34 at the 16:16 mark.
However, that was the closest the Hawks would get as the Mustangs, led by Marshall, started a methodical march to victory, turning the game into a runaway over the next six minutes. The senior forward fueled a 14-1 run with nine straight points, seven of those coming from the line after she continually pounded her Hawk counterparts inside. After Marshall was done, Zoe Scott (Spokane, WA) buried a three-pointer, and Best finished off the skein with a jumper for a 55-35 lead at the 10:18 mark.
From there until the final buzzer, it became a matter of how large the final margin would be. A Thompson layup after a steal extended the lead to 65-43 and the Mustangs closed out the victory by scoring the final seven points, all of them from the charity stripe.
Marshall's game-high total came on 5-9 shooting from the field and 12-15 from the line. She finished one rebound shy of her 17th double-double of the season. Best joined her in double figures, tallying 16 points on 6-10 shooting from the field, including a pair of treys. Cubello paced a 47-32 rebounding margin for the Mustangs with a career-high 12 boards.
Now, the Mustangs turn their attention to defending national champion Westmont for the third time this season. The clubs split their two previous meetings, each team winning on its home court. The Warriors beat the Mustangs 59-54 in Santa Barbara on January 28 while the Mustangs returned the favor in impressive fashion three weeks later, throttling the Warriors 68-46 on February 18.