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Alone At The Top

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February 22, 2011
Chris Duke
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SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific extended its program-record Golden State Athletic Conference winning streak to 14 games with a decisive 73-59 victory over The Master’s College Tuesday night, also clinching sole possession of the Cougars’ second consecutive GSAC title.

Led by juniors Eboni Sadler and Amber Williams, who combined for 28 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 steals on the night, the Cougars had 5 players in double figures along with junior guard Briana Hall’s 9 points and game-high 8 assists. Sadler and Williams each tallied a team-high 14 points along with 3 assists.

Azusa Pacific went into halftime with a 33-24 lead, despite hitting just 2-of-11 3-pointers and giving up 8 turnovers. In addition, the Cougars were also being outrebounded at halftime by a 22-19 margin. After finding itself in an early 13-6 hole, Azusa Pacific used a 14-3 run over a 6-minute stretch midway through the period to take the lead for good.

"The Master’s was fired up for their senior night, but we just let way too many balls go,” Cougar head coach T.J. Hardeman said. “We challenged ourselves to go get some rebounds in the second half."

In the second half, Azusa Pacific put the game out of reach with another 6-minute run, this time with a 19-6 run that turned an 8-point lead into a 58-37 edge with 10:56 remaining. The Cougars shot 64 percent (17-of-26) from the field in the second half to finish the game above 50 percent, and they allowed The Master’s just 7 second-half rebounds to flip the rebounding ratio to a final 35-29 margin.

"For us to win a national championship, we have to rebound that way," Hardeman said.

Sadler, who recorded 4 of her game-high 5 steals in the second half, led Azusa Pacific’s rebounding effort with a team-high 7 boards, and senior forward Alex Moore-Porter grabbed 5 rebounds. Hall dished out 5 of her game-high 8 assists in the second half.

With the win, Azusa Pacific improves to 25-4 overall, 17-2 GSAC, and the Cougars secured home-court advantage throughout the GSAC tournament, which begins Wednesday, March 2. Azusa Pacific has also claimed the first of 2 automatic GSAC berths into the NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship in Jackson, Tennessee, March 16-22.

"That's been our goal, it's what we've been working so hard for, and to get to that spot on someone else's floor is just a huge team effort," said Hardeman, who has taken the Cougars to the NAIA Tournament in all 4 of his years at the helm of Azusa Pacific.

The Cougars wrap up the regular season Saturday night against San Diego Christian at the Felix Event Center.