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Second Unit Takes Center Stage

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December 19, 2007
Joe Reinsch
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AZUSA, Calif. -- Senior guard Kate Shipp and freshman guard Jessica Raber scored 12 points apiece off the bench to lead the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 75-58 win over Trinity Western (B.C.) Wednesday evening.

The non-starters accounted for 49 of the Cougars’ 75 points, and 4 reserves played at least 20 minutes in relief of a starting 5 that shot 10-of-29 (34 percent) from the field. Every one of the 11 who played for Azusa Pacific scored, with 10 scoring at least 5 points. Shipp and Raber became the seventh and eighth players to lead Azusa Pacific in scoring in a game this season.

“It fosters a good team atmosphere to have Jessica and Kate leading us while the starters are on the sidelines cheering for them,” said Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman. “Down the line, you never know who you’re going to need to step up, so it’s always good for different players to get a chance to perform well.”

Trinity Western jumped out to an 8-1 lead as the Cougars failed to generate a field goal in the game’s first 6 minutes. Sophomore center Kristie Hala’ufia needed just a minute a half off the bench to make her presence felt, scoring Azusa Pacific’s first field goal with just over 14 minutes remaining in the first half. She then set up an easy bucket for sophomore center Kristel Eddington on the next possession, starting a 16-0 run that gave the lead for good. Raber’s first 3-pointer of the game gave Azusa Pacific its largest lead of the period/game, 22-10 advantage at the midway point of the opening half, and the Cougars settled for a 34-28 halftime advantage.

“Our schedule has been pretty tough, we just played last night, and I think our players thought this game shouldn’t be very tough,” said Hardeman. “Our second unit wanted to play, so we gave them that opportunity. We feel that one of our strengths is our depth, so it was good to see them perform after we didn’t start the game with much fire.”

The Spartans cut the lead to 3 points at 36-33 just over a minute into the second half, but Shipp and Hala’ufia scored back-to-back baskets, and senior forward Abby Johnson converted a 3-point play to give the Cougars a 43-33 lead with 16:13 remaining in the game.

After Trinity Western closed to within 47-42 with 12:28 to play, the Azusa Pacific defense held the Spartans scoreless over the next 4 minutes, running the lead into double digits for good with an 11-point run capped by a 3-shot foul converted by Shipp for a 58-42 advantage.

The Spartans became the ninth straight opponent to shoot below 40 percent, and the Cougar defense forced a season-high 36 Spartan turnovers. Johnson and freshman guards Michelle Byrd and C.J. Hill each came up with a game-high 3 steals, and Hala’ufia added a pair of blocks. Johnson was Azusa Pacific’s rebounding leader for the third straight game, grabbing 7 boards.

With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 9-1 on the season, tying the best start in the last 30 years of Cougar women’s basketball history. Trinity Western drops to 7-7.

The Cougars return to action when they take on No. 11-ranked Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) and British Columbia at next weekend’s 8th Annual GSAC Challenge hosted by The Master’s College.