Fulton, MO 12/2/2022- The Westminster College men's basketball team held their home opener on Thursday night as they took on Central Christian College Saints in their first game inside the Historic Gym this season. The Blue Jays have gotten off to a slow start, going 0-5 to start the season. It has not been an ideal start to head coach Todd Creals' first season at the helm of this Blue Jay squad. Things would turn around on this night as the Blue Jays win in dramatic fashion, 79-76. The Saints put up a three at the buzzer that hit off the backboard, then hit the front rim and it was as if time stood still as the ball floated above the rim before falling to the ground and securing the first victory of the Creal Era. The Jays are now 1-5 on the season and the Saints fall to 2-6.
It was a slugfest in a game that saw eight ties and sixteen lead changes. The Blue Jays led by ten points at various times. Meanwhile, the Saints never led by more than two points. Caleb Maassen (Linn, MO / Linn) got things going, scoring the first basket of the game, and starting what would be a big night for the sophomore forward. The two teams would go blow for blow in the first half with the Blue Jays heading to the locker room at halftime with a 36-35 lead.
Maassen would also score first to start the second half and then the next two baskets to go on a 6-0 run to give the Jays a 42-35 lead. Jaxon Althaus (Oak Grove, Mo. / Oak Grove) would hit a three to give the Blue Jays their first ten-point lead of the game. The Saints would battle back to cut it to 55-51 and force Westminster to call a timeout. The teams would trade baskets after the timeout, then the game would turn into a battle at the free throw line, with the next ten points in the game being scored from the charity stripe. Central Christian made a basket with 4:48 to play to cut the Blue Jay lead to 62-60. Makygh Galbreath (Fulton, MO/Fulton) would go to the free throw line and make both free throws to get the lead back up to four. Then the Jays hit back-to-back threes from their seniors Galbreath and Althaus. Both threes were assisted by Maassen and the roof almost blew off the Historic Gym as the Blue Jays took a 70-64 lead with 2:11 left in the game.
The Saints refusing to go away hit a three of their own with twelve seconds left to make it 77-76. Galbreath would make two free throws to give the Jays a three-point lead. Westminster would call a timeout to talk things over and talk about how to handle the ensuing in-bounds play by the Saints. The Jays showed full-court press but would back off once the ball was inbounded. The Saints rushed the ball up the court and tried a dribble handoff, but it wasn't clean, and they were forced to put up a deep three with Althaus all over the shooter. Once the shot went up it would hit off the glass, the front of the rim, the side of the rim, and out, as the Blue Jay faithful let out a sigh of relief and began celebrating the 79-76 win.
Althaus led the way with 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in the game. He would go 3-6 from behind the three-point line, he was also clutch from the free throw line down the stretch, going 6 for 7. Maassen capped off his game with 20 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists. Tre Kempker (Eugene, MO/Eugene) chipped in 13 points and would go 3 for 3 from the free throw line. Galbreath was the fourth different Blue Jay to score in double figures with 11 points. He would go 8 for 12 from the free-throw line. Westminster was 23-30 from the free throw line, shooting 76% in the game.
The Blue Jays will be back in action on Saturday, December 3rd when they host Knox College. That game tips off at 3:00 PM.