SANTA CLARITA, Calif.-- With as good as the NAIA’s No. 12 ranked Azusa Pacific has been this year, tonight may have been the Cougars’ best showing as they excelled in all facets of the game in an 80-58 win over the Master’s in the team’s final regular season road game.
Azusa Pacific (21-6, 14-3) led by as many as 25 and were ahead by double digits for nearly 37 minutes after opening the game on a 19-3 run. The Cougars shot well, hitting 43.7 percent of their shots (31-of-71), including 9-of-21 from 3-point range, and were in control from the opening tip.
“That was as good as we’ve played offensively all year. When we play great, this is what it looks like. We were finding each other, getting open shots and knocking them down,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “I feel like there have been games this year where we’ve let up, but there was no let up tonight.”
Defensively Azusa Pacific held the Mustangs (12-17, 5-12) to a 21-of-65 clip from the floor, and just 6-for-28 from beyond the arc. The Cougars also dominated the boards, grabbing 27 more rebounds than The Master’s (57-30 in favor of Azusa Pacific).
Azusa Pacific got another gem of a performance from senior center Amber Williams as she registered her second 20-20 game of the season, and 19th double-double, a day after earning her third GSAC Player of the Week honor this year.
“I thought it was as good as she’s played all year,” said Hardeman. “She’s got great hands. You notice when she’s out, rebounds are up for grabs, but when she’s in she just grabs it.”
Her 20-rebound game was her fourth of the season, and tonight was the 14th time she’s reached the 20-point mark. She also helped the team to a 24-8 scoring disparity in the paint as nobody on The Master’s could slow her down. In the back court Briana Hall ran an offense that dished out 20 assists and turned the ball over just 13 times (season average is 17.66). The senior guard tallied seven assists on the night, and scored 10 points to go with three steals.
On the wing the Cougars overcame their shooting woes on the road, nailing nine 3-pointers with three coming from freshman Katie Powell in the first half. Forward Rebecca Roehrkasse buried two treys to finish with 12 points, while Amanda Sims and Maddy Barrett each knocked down a pair to help the team to its 4th 20-point win of the year.
The one place The Master’s did hold an advantage was in bench points as the Mustangs outscored the Cougars 40-22 in that category, led by Zoe Scott’s team-high 17-points.
Azusa Pacific, did, however get production from its bench as Powell scored nine, Jasmyn Reed scored four, and Hannah Kenny, Cara Bomar, and Annie Fredrickson each added two points. Kenny pulled down five boards and recorded two assists and Reed grabbed four off the glass to show off the Cougars’ depth.
And while the night couldn’t have been much better for Azusa Pacific, there was still a bit of bad news. The Cougars, who entered the week with an outside shot at a share of the GSAC title, were officially eliminated from contention as Westmont posted an 86-66 win over Fresno Pacific to clinch the crown. The two teams, however, will meet on Saturday where the Cougars will host the Warriors in the conference finale on senior night.