ROXBURY, Mass.. – A trip originally intended to mix a little bit of pleasure and education into the business at hand turned into one big long and continuous party celebration that ironically ended with the Cougars on ice – in a good sense, that is.
The NAIA’s No. 3-ranked Azusa Pacific completed its own version of the “Boston Massacre” with a second consecutive drubbing, beating tournament host Fisher College, 100-64, to win in the Fisher Winter Classic staged on the south side of Boston.
A day that began with some of the Cougars touring famed Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution, continued with its battle-like theme when in the late afternoon Azusa Pacific put a blitzkrieg on Fisher from the opening tip by scoring 19 of the game’s first 21 points less than 4 minutes into play. The Cougars led by 28 at halftime and cruised the rest of the way, posting its seventh victory this season by more than 20 points.
By night’s end, the Cougars celebrated their 2 wins and 4-day stay in Boston in a very un-Southern California-like fashion -- ice-skating under the stars with hundreds of Bostonians at Frog Pond in 28-degree weather. It was a perfect finish for the near perfect play of the Cougars’ nonconference portion of their schedule. From here on out, it’s serious basketball with a serious purpose and any more ideas for fun can’t be entertained until March.
Over the next 8 weeks Azusa Pacific will be heavily engaged in its 3-time title defense of the Golden State Athletic Conference, playing 18 games against 10 conference foes who share a common desire – dethrone the mighty Cougars from a top the GSAC.
Based on its play this week in Boston, the Cougars are ready for any and all challengers, though granted all of them pose greater threats than any offered by Maine-Machias and Fisher, who within a 30-hour period were out-scored by Azusa Pacific by a combined 196-121 score.
In tonight’s pasting of Fisher, sophomore Mike Hornbuckle put together his most complete game of the season by tallying 21 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists – all season highs – in just 20 minutes of play. He drained 9-of-12 shots, including 3-of-5 from the arc and scored 16 first-half points, including 7 during the Cougars’ 14-0 run to start the game. Three hours later, the lifelong Southern California native of Thousand Oaks was seemingly at equal ease on the ice as he was on the hardwood.
Demario Butler was equally impressive, and yes at both court and ice play. The Las Vegas resident literally dropped in 15 points with an arrangement of spectacular dunks and above the rim shots and handed out 4 assists as well in his 22 minutes of action.
Meanwhile, the burly Brice Prather used his frame to manhandle an undersized set of Falcons, recording 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season.
While the outcome was never really in doubt, the Cougars erased any suspense to the game with a 21-2 run late in the first half in which they clamped down on the Falcons and held them to 1-for-12 shooting over an 8-minute stretch. Ninety seconds before halftime, Azusa Pacific was up 52-23 following a Tristan King 3-pointer.
For the second straight night all 14 Cougars played, with 11 logging 10 or minutes of action. Reserve Scott Zea chipped in with 9 points and 9 rebounds in 14 minutes while starting point guard Kasey Myers registered a game-high 6 assists.
Fisher, an NAIA Division II school that falls to 4-9 on the season, was led by Michael Newcombe’s 20 points, 10 in each half.
From here on out it’s nothing but GSAC play for Azusa Pacific. The Cougars, who return to Southern California Saturday evening with an 11-1 record, put their 10-game winning streak to a serious test Tuesday (Jan. 3) when they visit The Master’s for a 7:30 p.m. contest at Bross Gym in Santa Clarita.