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TMC women's basketball preview: Mustangs aim higher

TMC looks to improve upon disappointing postseason a year ago

Posted: December 10, 2013 10:51 p.m.
Updated: December 10, 2013 10:51 p.m.

The Master's College returning starters, from left, Zoe Scott, Whitney Best and Jacquelyn Marshall.

 

The Master’s College women’s basketball head coach Dan Waldeck isn’t shy about his team’s lofty goals this season.

When you coach the preseason No. 12 ranked team nationally, it’s hard to be.

“We want to be a Final Four team, and we have the work ethic to do it,” said Waldeck, who’s in his sixth year as the head coach at his alma mater. “In the short term, though, it’s about making the national tournament, winning our conference. We should peak later in the season. We peaked too early last year.”

The Lady Mustangs went 25-6 overall and 10-4 in the Golden State Athletic Conference in 2012-2013, but were beaten convincingly in the first round of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tournament by Carroll College of Montana.

After starting the year 19-1, TMC went just 6-5 to end the season.

“The biggest lesson for the veterans coming back this year was to have a continued focus,” said TMC junior point guard Whitney Best. “For us to go to nationals last year and lose when we did was obviously disappointing. The veterans walked away excited for the opportunity, but wondering what else they could have done.”

Best is one of three returning starters for the Mustangs. The Washington product scored 7.6 points per game and tallied 3.8 assists per contest a season ago, and is putting up nearly identical numbers so far to start the 2013-14 campaign.

Best is joined by Zoe Scott, who’s not only a deadly three-point shooter, but a prolific one. The senior guard needs just 13 more long-range bombs to break the school’s all-time record for 3-pointers made.

Most notably, TMC’s dominant forward Jacquelyn Marshall is back, and so far has been better than ever. Through her first eight starts, Marshall leads the team in scoring and rebounding, is second on the team in blocked shots, fourth in assists and third in steals.

“I knew I needed to get stronger and faster, and I’m starting to lead with my voice as opposed to just doing my job on the court,” says Marshall, who transferred into the program two years ago after playing for the University of California, Irvine. “It’s been a learning experience because I’ve never had to play that role.”

TMC is fortunate to have multiple scoring threats and floor leaders returning, but the Mustangs’ success in 2012-13 was built around a defense that devastated opponents.

TMC held opposing squads to under 38 percent shooting from the field a season ago, a big reason the Mustangs were able to outscore teams by just over 15 points per game.

Through its first nine games in 2013, TMC has managed to replicate that brand of basketball even despite the graduation of the notoriously scrappy Lena Rivera, who led the team in steals a year ago.

Teams are shooting just 35 percent from the field against the Mustangs in 2013, while TMC is scoring nearly 80 points per game behind a 43 percent team field goal percentage.

But while the Mustangs are, at least statistically, already playing at a higher level now than they were last year, they aren’t winning at as high a rate.

TMC is off to a 6-3 start, losing by double digits to Oregon Tech before falling in close battles against NAIA No. 6 Freed-Hardeman and Merrimack. However, the Mustangs won virtually every statistical battle in those contests, with the exception of turnovers.

Thus far, TMC’s landmark victory was its 59-56 victory on Nov. 23 over the same Carroll team that booted the Mustangs from the NAIA tournament last season.  

The Mustangs won that game without the services of Marshall, instead relying on junior Millie Rivera (Lena’s sister) to pick up the slack, when she scored 12 points to lead the team.

Rivera is third on the team in scoring and has emerged as an impact player in her first year as a starter on the team. She’s joined by inside force Lindsey Levanen as the newest members of the Mustangs’ starting five.

Slowly approaching for the Mustangs is the GSAC season, with nationally ranked No. 1 Vanguard and No. 3 Westmont coming along with it. The league season begins on Jan. 14.

“Yeah, there’s always great teams in this league, but I’d rather compete and fight every week than play weak teams,” Marshall says.

When the ultimate objectives are winning a league title and making a Final Four at the NAIA tournament, those types of games can only serve to help the Mustangs.

Until then, TMC’s biggest challenge is a Dec. 28 showdown with No. 5 Westminster.

Or perhaps TMC’s biggest challenge is helping its own cause and turning its recent statistical superiority into easy wins.

6-3 is a good start, even if it’s not as impressive as the 19-1 run that kickstarted the 2012-13 campaign.

Then again, if this team has learned anything, it’s all about how you finish.

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