LA MIRADA, Calif. -- Sophomore point guard Briana Hall torched Biola’s Chase Gymnasium nets for a game-high 22 points to lead the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific to an 83-72 win over the No. 18 Eagles Tuesday night.
The Cougars erased a pair of double-digit deficits in the first half, then rallied from 7 down midway through the second half before Hall knocked down 3 treys within a 2:08 span, part of a 19-6 run that swung the momentum in Azusa Pacific’s direction for good. Hall started the run with her first 3-pointer, pulling the Cougars to within 60-59 with 7:06 remaining in the game, and she nailed 2 more a couple of minutes later on back-to-back possessions to push Azusa Pacific in front by a 67-62 margin. Hall’s long-range barrage proved to be the turning point that reversed Biola’s 56-49 lead with 11:15 to play into the Cougars’ 5-point edge with less than 5 minutes left.
“She’s such an unselfish player, we sometimes have to remind her that we want her shooting the ball,” head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “We feel she’s so dangerous and forces teams to adjust when she’s playing the way she did tonight.”
Junior guard C.J. Hill scored 12 of her 18 points in the final 4 minutes, including a perfect 6-of-6 at the free throw line to help put the game out of reach in the closing minutes. Junior forward Alex Moore-Porter added game-highs of 22 points and 9 rebounds, scoring exactly half of her points in each half, and she was a perfect 6-of-6 at the charity stripe.
Biola posted a quick 10-0 run to take an early 18-6 lead less than 7 minutes into the game, but Hall sparked a 16-3 run over the next 6 minutes to give the Cougars a 22-21 lead with 7:24 to play in the half. After junior center Kristie Hala’ufia made 1-of-2 free throws to give Azusa Pacific a 26-25 lead, Biola responded with a 15-3 run to push the lead back to 11 points at 40-29.
However, Azusa Pacific closed out the half with 7 straight points, the last 3 on Hall’s conventional 3-point play with 35 seconds left to trim the halftime deficit to 40-36. The Cougars also scored the first 5 points of the second half, completing an 11-0 run that spanned the last 2 minutes of the first half and nearly 2 full minutes to start the second half and resulted in a 41-40 lead with 18:34 left in the game.
“I was happy to see that we didn’t panic at all,” Hardeman said. “There’s no way you can add to the pressure of playing Biola at this gym. It’s a fun, unique opportunity, so we wanted to work hard and really enjoy this atmosphere.”
Biola was led by Jessilyn Conicelli’s 22-point, 8-rebound performance, which included 15 points and 5 boards after she picked up 2 quick fouls in the first half and was limited to just 7 minutes of opening-half action. Jennifer French added 18 points and 6 rebounds, and Christina Barclay contributed 8 points and game-highs of 9 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 blocks for the Eagles.
Azusa Pacific is now 20-4 overall and 13-1 in GSAC play, while Biola drops to 13-9 overall, 9-5 GSAC.
The win sets up a Saturday tilt for the Golden State Athletic Conference lead with No. 5-ranked Point Loma Nazarene, which remained a half-game behind the Cougars by cruising to a 36-point home win over San Diego Christian Tuesday.