SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica -- Azusa Pacific opened its men’s basketball foreign exhibition tour in Costa Rica with two victories over local teams during a busy opening stretch of the nine-day trip.
The Cougars opened its three-game exhibition slate on Wednesday, August 20, with a 106-79 victory over Escazú, which competes in the nation’s Liga de Baloncesto Superior (LBS) league. Led by Troy Leaf and Kevin Stafford, Azusa Pacific hit 10 first-half three-pointers to take a 65-34 halftime lead and finished the game shooting 42 percent from three-point range while hitting 54 percent overall from the field. Leaf scored a team-high 24 points, and Stafford added 19, while three others (Robert Sandoval, Bruce English, and Jared Zoller) contributed 10 points each.
The next night, the Cougars returned to the court and posted a 90-55 win over Grecia. For the second straight contest, Azusa Pacific used 10 first-half treys and went into halftime with a double-digit advantage, 51-27. Austin Dyer scored 15 points to lead Azusa Pacific, which had six players reach double figures in scoring. Leaf added 11 points, and Sandoval, English, Zoller, and LyDell Cardwell added 10 each.
“One of the highlights for me so far is just seeing the team get back on the floor and compete together,” Azusa Pacific head coach Justin Leslie said. “That first game was a very fun night on the court, considering what a long day we had. By the second night, you could tell the busy days got to us, because we weren’t executing as crisply in the second half (at Grecia).”
Exhibition games represented only a small part of the Cougars’ itinerary. Following its Tuesday evening arrival, the Cougar players and coaching staff spent the day leading into its first exhibition game at Escazú by participating in a service project at a local school and putting on two basketball clinics for local youth.
“We spent that first morning interacting with students in different classes at the school,” Leslie said. “Most of the kids didn’t speak English, so we had a rough time trying to communicate, but as the day went on, it was pretty amazing to watch the language barriers disappear. Part of our service project at the school was leveling their field, so we moved piles of dirt, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow. It was a ton of work, but the students started helping and you could see how much it brightened their day to have us there doing that project.”
On Thursday, August 21, the team visited the Doka Coffee Estate and La Paz Waterfall Gardens before the trip to Grecia for more clinics and another exhibition game.
The trip concludes with one more clinic and exhibition game in San Ramón before the team returns home to Los Angeles on Wednesday, August 27.
Daily Facebook updates from the team are available on the Cougar Basketball fan page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cougar-Basketball/106847912677760.