COSTA MESA, Calif. - NAIA All-American Tugce Canitez scored 23 points and pulled down 16 rebounds as No. 11 Westmont (Calif.) women's basketball took down No. 1 Vanguard by a score of 66-56 on the Lions' home court. Junior forward Kelsie Sampson added another 16 points, seven boards and three blocks to the Warrior cause.
Vanguard, which had been crowned the top-ranked team earlier in the day in the most recent NAIA Coaches Poll, suffered its first loss of the season, falling to 11-1 overall and 2-1 in Golden State Athletic Conference play. The Warriors improved to 12-3 and 3-0 respectively.
The game remained close throughout with neither team holding more than a six-point lead until the clock showed less than seven minutes remaining in the contest. The lead changed hands 15 times, however, Westmont never trailed by more than two points.
Down 49-48 with eight and one-half minutes to play, a jumper by Sampson gave the Warriors the lead. Nearly a minute later, Canitez extended the Warrior advantage with a jumper in the paint. Sophomore guard Esther Lee (12 points) sank two free throws to make the score 54-49 before Sampson scored again on a jumper to give Westmont a 56-49 margin with 6:49 remaining.
Eighty seconds later, sophomore guard Celina Gougis (10 points, 4 rebounds) drained two more free throws putting the Warriors up by nine (58-49).
Vanguard's Alison Drennan ended a four-minute scoring draught for the Lions by drilling a shot from three-point range, but Sampson answered with a layup making the score 60-52 with 4:56 remaining. After two free throws by the Lions' Leigha Bednar, Canitez scored on a lay-up to restore the eight-point cushion with 3:38 to play. Neither team scored during the next two minutes.
With just over a minute and one-half left in regulation, Taylor Belmont cut the Warrior lead to six with a layup. However, those two points proved to be the Lions' last. Two free throws by Canitez and two more by Lee, accounted for the final score.
Vanguard was led offensively by Nichole Ballestero who scored 18 points and pulled down four rebounds. The Lions were held to 33.9 percent from the floor while the Warriors enjoyed a 44.4 field goal percentage. Westmont also enjoyed a 41-34 rebound advantage.
The Warriors will next host the Royals of Hope International (9-9, 1-2 GSAC) on Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. The Lions will host the Firestorm of Arizona Christian (4-11, 0-3) at the same time.
In other GSAC action, No. 8 The Master's remained undefeated (16-0, 3-0), taking down visiting Concordia (4-11, 2-1) by a score of 78-67. Hope International pounded Arizona Christian 85-48 and San Diego Christian (9-10, 1-2) snuck past visiting Biola (9-9, 0-3) with a 66-63 win.