IRVINE, Calif. -- Junior forward Alex Moore-Porter scored a game-high 30 points, including the game-tying and go-ahead buckets in the final minute-plus of the game, to lift the NAIA’s No. 10-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 68-64 win over Concordia Saturday night.
Concordia took its first lead of the second half, 62-61, on Cheyenne Wallace’s baseline jumper with less than 2 minutes remaining, and Nicole Fu pushed the lead to 64-61 with 1:19 to play. On the Cougars’ ensuing possession, a high pick-and-roll left Moore-Porter with an open look from behind the 3-point line, and she drilled it to tie the game at 64-64 with 1:03 left. Moore-Porter drew a charge on the other end, then pushed Azusa Pacific back in front with 26 seconds remaining in the game with the last of her 12 made field goals.
“You know, she’s always the first one in the gym before practice, and she’s the last one to leave after practice,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “When those pressure situations come, she knows she wants the ball.”
She secured the rebound of Karen Carney’s missed jumper that would have tied the game, and junior guard C.J. Hill converted a one-and-one free throw opportunity with 6 seconds left to provide the final 4-point margin.
“As a team we really try to emphasize controlling what we control,” said Hardeman, whose squad remained a half-game behind conference-leading Point Loma Nazarene.
“We can’t control the games we’re not playing – we can only control the game we get to play. I thought it was huge for us not to panic after giving up that lead on the road, and it was nice to see the team play with confidence and execute down the stretch.”
Moore-Porter was 12-of-18 from the field and grabbed 6 rebounds, helping the Cougars to a 39-31 edge on the boards, and she reached 30 points in a game for the third time this season. She scored 34 points against Concordia in Azusa Pacific’s 81-79 home win over the Eagles earlier this month. Junior center Kristie Hala’ufia added a 17-point, 9-rebound effort, and Hill was the only other Cougar close to double-digits, finishing with 8 points along with a game-high 6 assists.
Concordia was led by Fu’s 20-point performance, and Kayanna Nichols (13 points) and Karen Carney (10 points) joined Fu in double figures. Wallace’s late go-ahead basket represented her only points of the game, although she held her own in the paint with 4 blocks and 8 rebounds, both team-highs.
Moore-Porter scored 19 of her 30 points in the first half, hitting 8-of-9 from the field with a pair of 3-pointers, to give the Cougars a 38-31 halftime advantage. She hit both of her first-half treys during a 17-4 run over a 6-minute stretch, turning a 19-13 Concordia lead into a 30-23 Cougar advantage with 5:44 to go in the period.
Azusa Pacific twice led by double-digits in the first 4 minutes of the second half, taking its second 11-point lead at 46-35 on a Hala’ufia jumper. Midway through the period, the Cougars still led by 9 points when Hala’ufia knocked down another jumper for a 53-44 margin with 9:52 left. A Carney trey capped a 7-0 Concordia run that cut the Eagles’ deficit to just 2 points at 53-51 with 7:55 left, and Azusa Pacific never led by more than 4 points over the final 8 minutes.
The Cougars, now 17-4 overall and 10-1 in GSAC play, opened the second half of the 20-game Golden State Athletic Conference schedule with their sixth straight win, and Azusa Pacific closes out the month with 8 wins in 9 January contests. The Cougars remained a half-game behind GSAC leader Point Loma Nazarene, which defeated Hope International Saturday night in Fullerton. Concordia drops to 10-9 overall with a 3-8 league mark.
Azusa Pacific visits The Master’s College on Tuesday, Feb. 2, before returning to the Felix Event Center on Friday, Feb. 5, to host California Baptist University.