EL CAJON, Calif. -- Junior center Kristie Hala’ufia scored a team-high 25 points in just 18 minutes and sophomore forward Alex Moore-Porter added 21 points to lead the NAIA’s No. 23-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 81-66 road win over San Diego Christian Thursday night.
Hala’ufia scored the first 6 points of the game on her first 3 shots, and she led the Cougars in scoring for the first time since the last time she scored over 20 points, a 24-point effort at The Master’s Dec. 12.
“We worked a lot this week on getting (Kristie) the ball,” said Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman. “We wanted her to decide where she would get her shots so she could set up that way, and the guards did a great job finding her in those spots tonight.”
Moore-Porter converted a 3-point play with 14:19 to play in the first half to give Azusa Pacific its first double-digit lead at 15-4, and freshman point guard Briana Hall’s layup put the finishing touches on a game-opening 35-12 run through the first 12:30 of the game.
“Our intensity defensively was amazing,” Hardeman said. “The guards did a great job bringing pressure, and the team played great defense. Defensive intensity to start the game was very, very high, which was beneficial to us.”
Despite picking up 3 fouls in the first half, Hala’ufia scored 8 points in 10 minutes of first-half action before exploding for 17 points in just 8 minutes of work after halftime.
Dorchella James led all scorers with 35 points and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, and 1 of her 5 3-pointers pulled San Diego Christian to within 11 points at 46-35 with 17:03 left in the game. Hala’ufia answered with back-to-back buckets on consecutive possessions to kick off a 25-9 run over the next 7 minutes that gave Azusa Pacific its largest lead of the game at 71-44 with 9:49 remaining. San Diego Christian used an 8-0 run to erase the Cougars’ 20-point lead with 4 minutes to play before sophomore guard Jessica Raber nailed a trey with 27 seconds left for the final 15-point margin of victory.
Raber drilled 3-of-4 from long range, and she and sophomore guard Teri Higgenbottom each contributed 9 points off the bench for the Cougars. Hall finished with 7 points and managed the Azusa Pacific offense with 5 assists.
“We had 20 assists on 30 baskets,” Hardeman said. “The guards specifically did well, but it was a complete team effort. We really talked this week about trying to make other people on our team better and what each person could do to make somebody else better. That’s what really jumped out to me tonight, to see that mentality in action.”
Sophomore guard C.J. Hill also dished out 5 assists, and Moore-Porter and sophomore guard Michelle Byrd led the way for the defense with 3 steals apiece.
James hit 5-of-7 3-pointers and added team-highs of 4 assists and 5 steals, but she was the only San Diego Christian player to reach double figures in scoring. Lara Hertzog came off the bench for the Hawks to tally 10 rebounds.
The victory, which was Azusa Pacific’s 18th straight against San Diego Christian, lifted the Cougars to 5-4 in GSAC play and 14-5 overall. The Hawks remain winless in conference play, dropping to 0-8 GSAC, 3-13 overall.
Azusa Pacific has the weekend off before wrapping up the first half of the 20-game GSAC schedule with a visit to NAIA No. 15-ranked Westmont on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at 5:30 p.m.