By Nicolette Kirkland, Vanguard (Calif.) Sports Information Director
COSTA MESA, Calif. – Vanguard (Calif.) earned its number one ranking on Saturday as it blasted No. 5 Westminster (Utah), 72-45, in non-conference women’s basketball action. The Lions maintain a perfect 4-0 slate, while WC suffers its first loss of 2013 and moves to 4-1. Senior Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.) compiled 21 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds in the victory.
A calm and collected Lions’ team opened Saturday’s contest 12-4 using a balanced scoring effort from its starters, before Westminster flew off on a 10-3 run of its own to come within a point of the Pride at 15-14.
Ballestero answered on the Blue and Gold’s next possession with a slash to the hoop, but the Griffins found a way to match the bucket and took a lead at 10:30 on the following trip down with a 3-pointer from Amy Krommenhoek.
For the next several minutes, Westminster held a slight advantage, but sophomore Samantha Doucette (Irvine, Calif.) answered with a mid-range jumper and a make from deep to put VU up four (26-22) and senior Taylor Belmont (Oregon City, Ore.) nailed another from behind the arc to stretch it to 29-22. On the same play, the Griffins fouled senior Leigha Bednar (Keller, Texas) underneath, putting the Lions in the bonus which sent Bednar to the line where she hit the front end of a pair to give Vanguard 30 points.
The Pride led 36–26 at the break after closing the period with a 19-4 run.
Doucette paced VU with 11 in 18 minutes of first half action, while Belmont scored 8 and dished five assists for the Lions.
Westminster struggled to defend the Pride out of the locker room, as junior Melissa Norman (Elk Grove, Calif.) and Ballestero extended the margin to 14 with a pair of jumpers on the first two possessions for Vanguard.
The Griffins were held scoreless for six minutes in the second, while Vanguard built an 18-point lead, extending its impressive run to 27-4 before Krommenhoek hit her fourth from downtown to briefly pause the momentum.
Two minutes later, Krommenhoek nailed another three, but WC simply could not muster the strength to make consistent stops defensively, as Vanguard continued to score at will on its NAIA top-5 counterpart.
Junior Ashleigh Anderson (Oregon City, Ore.) and Ballestero managed a pair of pretty buckets from deep to push the Lions over the 50-point mark, and Belmont gave VU its first 20-point (55-35) lead with a free throw at 8:51.
Vanguard was incredibly efficient and composed in the contest, shooting 49 percent (25-51) from the field, 42.9 percent (6-14) from 3-point range and 80 percent (16-20) from the charity stripe.
Doucette finished with 18 points and seven rebounds, while Belmont was the other Lion in double-figures with 12. Belmont also registered a game-best 6 assists on the afternoon and grabbed five off of the glass.
Anderson, a guard, led the VU rebounding effort with 8 boards. She dished five assists in the affair.
Krommenhoek hit 5-of-8 3-point tries in the game, to score 20 nearly half of her team’s total, in the loss.
The fifth-ranked Griffins defeated defending national champion and third-ranked Westmont 84-53 on November 7th and took down Biola 62-37 on November 15th.
Vanguard travels down to San Diego on November 20th to face a familiar foe in Point Loma Nazarene. The game is slated for 7:00 pm.