IRVINE, Calif. -- Senior forward Abby Johnson scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed a game-high 9 rebounds, and senior guard Sarah Leathers knocked down a season-high 6 3-pointers to lead the NAIA’s No. 16-ranked Azusa Pacific to a convincing 70-54 win over Concordia Tuesday night.
Johnson finished 1 board shy of her second double-double of the season, leading a 37-rebound effort that marked the sixth time in 6 games in which Azusa Pacific out-rebounded its opponent.
For Leathers, the Cougars’ all-time 3-point leader, it was her best single-game performance from long distance since knocking down 7 3-pointers in back-to-back games as a sophomore in February 2006.
Johnson scored 15 in the opening half, including the first 2 buckets of a 16-2 run that erased Concordia’s only lead of the game, a 4-0 advantage 90 seconds into the contest. Leathers capped the run with her first 2 treys of the game. After trading pairs of baskets, freshman guard C.J. Hill’s 3-pointer with 8:39 remaining in the first half sparked a 16-4 run that gave the Cougars their largest lead of the period at 37-16 with 4:41 left. Johnson scored Azusa Pacific’s final 4 points of the half to send the Cougars into halftime with a 41-22 lead.
Concordia scored 12 straight in the first 3-and-a-half minutes of the second half to cut the lead to just 7 points at 41-34, but sophomore center Kristie Hala’ufia’s free throws sparked a 6-point run that briefly halted the Eagles’ momentum and gave the Cougars a 47-34 lead with 15 minutes to play.
However, Tyler Howard’s 3-pointer and a subsequent Kayanna Nichols jumper trimmed the lead back to 8 points before another pair of back-to-back Leathers 3-pointers helped push the lead back to double-digits for good, part of a 10-0 run that pushed the Azusa Pacific lead back to 57-39 with just over 9 minutes remaining in the game. Leathers’ final 3-pointer with 2:25 remaining gave the Cougars their largest lead of the game at 70-48.
Junior forward Nikita Gordon and freshman guard Michelle Byrd each added 10 points for Azusa Pacific, and Byrd pulled down 8 rebounds and dished out 4 assists. Hill was the Cougars’ assist leader with 5, and Leathers came up with 5 of the team’s 14 steals.
Concordia was led by Lauren Sahli’s team-high 11 pointsm while Nichols was the only other Eagle in double digits, finishing with 10 points.
With the win, Azusa Pacific wraps up the pre-holiday portion of the Golden State Athletic Conference schedule with a perfect 3-0 conference mark, and the Cougars improve to 5-1 overall. Concordia drops to 1-2 GSAC, 6-3 overall.
Azusa Pacific returns to action with a weekend visit to No. 12-ranked Lewis-Clark State (Ida.), whom the Cougars defeated by a 64-57 margin in Azusa Nov. 9. Azusa Pacific plays the Warriors Friday night at 6 p.m. in the rematch of its season opener, then turns around to take on No. 7-ranked Carroll (Mont.) Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m., also at Lewis-Clark State.