FULTON, Mo. - Westminster men's basketball fell 92-86 to open the season at home against Simpson.
The Blue Jays start the season 0-1 with the loss.
"This was sure an exciting way to start the season," said Westminster Head Coach Matt Mitchell. "Both teams shot the ball well and moved the ball extremely well. The game came down to a few key possessions and they made two bigs shots while we missed ours."
The opening eight minutes of the game featured a back-and-forth battle in which neither team led by more than four points. A Steven Brandt three-pointer with 11:52 on the clock gave Westminster its biggest lead of the half at 23-18. The Storm bouned back to come within one basket, but Casey McCollum hit a three-pointer to extend the Blue Jay lead back to five points with under nine minutes to play in the half.
The Blue Jays continued to hold on to the five-point lead with an old-fasioned three-point play at the 6:09 mark. Stu Hollandsworrh hit a layup on the next possession for the biggest lead of the game for Westminster at 32-25. Westminster continued to hold its lead in the first half, making free-throws down the stretch from Carter Wands, Collin Caywood, and Kobe Wands. A Storm layup to end the half made the score 47-41 halfway through the game.
Hollandsworth opened the second half with back-to-back made layups to maintain the seven-point lead. Romo Tabb followed with two back-to-back layups of his own following a Storm freethrow to mark the first double-digit lead of the game at 55-45 with 17 minutes to play.
The Storm followed up with a 10-0 run over the next three minutes to tie the game at 55 points apiece, broken up by a layup from Carter Wands to give Westminster back the lead with just over 14 minutes to play. Three lead changes and three ties were featured in the next four minutes, with a Kobe Wands freethrow keeping the advantage with Westminster at 67-63.
Both teams continued to trade baskets in the final minutes, which included five ties and five lead changes over three minutes. Hollandsworth hit a momentum-changing three-pointer with 4:33 remaining to put the Blue Jays up 79-76. Simpson came down to hit two freethrows, giving Westminster a chance to keep the lead. After a missed three-pointer, the Storm took advantage of the miss and hit a layup to take the lead, followed by another Blue Jay miss and two made Storm freethrows to put Westminster down 82-79.
Hollandsworth kept the Blue Jays alive with two made freethrows to go down by one with just under three minutes to play, but the Storm answered with two made freethrows of their own to keep the three-point lead.
At the 2:04 mark, Tabb grabbed his own missed layup for a tip-in to make the score 84-83 with the Blue Jays down one, causing Simpson to call a timeout.
The Storm took advantage of the timeout, hitting a three-pointer with 1:14 on the clock to go up 87-83, but Kobe Wands drew a foul on his own three-point shot on the other end, draining all three to keep Westminster within one possession of the lead.
The next Simpson possession, the Storm hit another three-pointer to dash the Blue Jays opening game hopes, hitting two freethrows to seal the victory.
Hollandsworth led the way offensively for Westminster, pouring in 25 points to lead all scorers, going 10-14 from the field. Kobe Wands added 21 points while Tabb recorded 18. Carter Wands added in seven assists while Caywood grabbed five steals for the Blue Jays.
"We have the toughest nonconference schedule that we have ever had," said Mitchell. "If our guys give this level of effort every night, we will be fine."
Westminster travels to Millikin Thursday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.