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Oh So Close

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Photo by Sam Stone
Amanda Sims posted a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the Cougars' overtime loss.

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November 17, 2012
Chris Baker
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BELLINGHAM, Wash.-- The Cougars rallied back from a 12-point second half deficit to force overtime, but in the extra frame Seattle Pacific’s Mechela Barnes nailed a pair of free throws with 5.4 seconds remaining to lift the Falcons to a 76-74 win in game four of the West Region Crossover Classic, hosted by Western Washington University.

Azusa Pacific trailed by as many as four in overtime, but took a two-point lead after Katie Powell hit back-to-back treys. The Cougars pushed their edge to three with 1:22 left in OT on an Amanda Sims free throw, but SPU scored seven of the final nine points to pull off the narrow victory.

“Everyone on the team’s a competitor, so nobody’s happy with the outcome. But we took a huge step. We didn’t shoot well from the line again, and that’s something we can, and need to correct. But we came away feeling like we’re a lot better than we came in,” said head coach T.J. Hardeman after his team dropped its second straight game at the Crossover Classic.

Sims, who was selected to the all-tournament team, registered a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, and sank a driving lay-in with just over four seconds to play in regulation to push the contest to an extra frame. The senior had 12 second half points, and six second half rebounds.

“Amanda played great; she easily had her best game of the year. We drew up that last play of regulation and she came off a high screen and hit a really nice driving left-handed lay-in over their center,” said Hardeman.

The Cougars, who struggled offensively last night, shot much better on Saturday, finishing with a 40.3 percent clip from the field. But, in similar fashion to Friday night’s defeat, they were awful from the free throw line, making just seven of 20 attempts. Azusa Pacific was out-rebounded by the Falcons (3-1) 31-18 in the first half, but over the final 25 minutes pulled down 35 rebounds, compared to just 17 for SPU to overcome a 10-point Seattle Pacific halftime advantage.

Powell finished with a career-high 14 points after hitting four 3-pointers, including a triple that gave the Cougars a 49-46 lead with just over nine minutes to play. Hannah Kenny had 14 points and seven rebounds, but suffered from a popular foul affliction that struck three of the Cougars’ five starters. Kenny, Calli Jackson, and Kelly Hardeman each fouled out and ironically each pulled in seven boards.

But the silver lining of their exclusions was that the Cougars depth had a chance to shine. The Azusa Pacific bench outscored the Falcons’ 34-4, thanks in large part to Powell and freshman forward Lauren Gilster, who had her best game as a Cougar, pouring in 13 points to go with eight rebounds.

“Our bench did great. Everyone that we put in was ready to play and did really well. Katie shot really well and Lauren had a very good game,” said Hardeman.

The Cougars trailed by double digits in each half, but after Powell’s trey at the 9:12 mark never fell behind by more than four points. Azusa Pacific went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to cut the margin to two points, and with less than five minutes remaining in regulation held a three-point lead thanks to a layup in the lane from Sims. A triple from Aubree Callen, who had a game-high 21 points, marked the third tie of the night, and from that point on no team led by more than two.

Seattle Pacific took a 64-62 lead after Callen nailed two free throws with 23 seconds left in the half, setting up Sims’ game-tying bucket. In overtime the Falcons went ahead 68-64, but two Powell threes put the Cougars up 70-68. SPU then scored seven points over the final 1:22, capped by Barnes’ game-winners to seal the victory.

Azusa Pacific will return to action next weekend at the UC San Diego Tournament, where the team will square off with the Tritons and Cal State San Bernardino.