Video Highlights By Azusa Pacific Student Rob Small
AZUSA, Calif.-- For the second straight season the NAIA’s 12th ranked Azusa Pacific will play for the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament championship after defeating 11th ranked Vanguard 73-66 in the semifinals. The Cougars held the Lions to 33.3 percent from the floor and forced Vanguard to hoist deep threes throughout as Azusa Pacific’s size presented a mismatch all night.
The Cougars, who have a chance to do something last year’s NAIA national championship team couldn’t do (win a GSAC tournament title), outscored the Lions 30-18 in the paint and outrebounded them 48-33. Vanguard launched 26 3-point attempts in the game, but went cold in the second half; converting just 2-of-14. The Lions, however, stayed in the game by making 17 of their 20 second half free throws.
“That was a big win for us, they’re a really good team. We both came in having won eight straight and it’s really hard to beat a hot team,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman. “They’ve been the team to beat so to beat Vanguard and finish the season undefeated [at home] is awesome.”
Briana Hall had another big night, scoring 20-points to go with six assists, five rebounds, and two steals, while Amber Williams posted her 22nd double-double of the season with a 20-point, 12-rebound game. Amanda Sims nailed a pair of early 3-pointers to give Azusa Pacific an early lead, and later hit a crucial shot in the second half to end a dry spell for the Cougars.
Azusa Pacific never trailed in the game, and led by as many as 15, but Vanguard never let the Cougars coast. Hal opened the scoring by driving down the right side of the lane with her patented one-handed finger roll and the Cougars jumped to a quick 10-2 advantage on a Sims trey. Vanguard clawed back to make it 14-10 on a layup by Esther Timmermans, but a 9-0 run pushed the Cougar lead to 11 before Azusa Pacific went up by 15 at the 6:20 mark on a triple from Maddy Barrett.
The Lions ended the first half on a 14-5 run to going to the break trialing 35-29. To start the second half the Lions held Azusa Pacific to just four points through the first eight minutes to tie the game for the first time since the opening tip at 39-39 with 11:45 on the clock. But Sims took back the momentum with a jumper from the top of the key before Barrett hit her third 3-pointer of the night to give the Cougars a five-point edge.
Azusa Pacific would push it back to 10-points on a pair of free throws from Hall with 2:10 to play before sealing the 73-66 win.
Hannah Kenny pulled down eight boards and was all over the court in the win, while Rebecca Roehrkasse added nine points, three rebounds, and two blocks. Sims finished with eight points, and played great defense and registering three steals.
Vanguard’s Paige Halberg finished with 19 points, eight assists, and five rebounds, while Timmermans scored 10 and grabbed seven rebounds. With the win Azusa Pacific improves to 15-0 at home this season and has played in its final GSAC contest in the Felix Event Center.
On Monday the Cougars take on Westmont in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. in a place where the Warriors handed Azusa Pacific its first loss of the season. The two teams split a pair of meetings with each notching a win at home.