AZUSA, Calif.-- Kirstie Williams hit six second half 3-pointers, and Hawai’i Hilo made all four of its free throws in the final 30 seconds to hold off a surging Azusa Pacific women’s basketball team in a 78-73 upset of the Cougars on Monday night. Azusa Pacific cut the Vulcans’ lead to three points twice in the final minute, but UHH converted on four-straight free throws in the waning seconds to seal the win and put a road block in the Cougars’ quest for a Pacific West Conference championship.
Hawai’i Hilo took it to the PacWest’s top-ranked defense, beating Azusa Pacific’s full-court press en route to 18 fast break points. The Vulcans shot 49.1 percent from the floor, and drained 11 3-pointers, with a game-high seven coming from Williams to help Hilo pick up its second road win of the season.
Offensively Sendy Valles tried to do everything she could to help the Cougars in an otherwise off shooting night, scoring a game-high 32 points. The junior forward hit a triple to give Azusa Pacific a 55-54 lead with under eight to play, and after the Vulcans answered with a jumper on the other end, drove in for a layup in the lane to put the Cougars ahead 57-56. That, however, would be the team’s last lead.
On the ensuing possession Williams drained her first of four treys in the final eight minutes of action to put the Vulcans up 59-57. With 3:42 to play she hit a triple to put Hawai’i Hilo ahead by six, and with 1:51 remaining the junior buried a jumper from three feet beyond the arc to make it a three possession lead with the Vulcans ahead 74-67.
A pair of Valles free throws cut the deficit to five points before the Cougar defense ratcheted up the pressure, forcing a 10-second count and getting two more free throws from Valles to make it a one possession game.
A huge defensive play from Sullivan Ziegler, where the junior dove to the ground to force a jump ball, gave Azusa Pacific a chance to tie it. But a big block from the Vulcans kept the score at 74-71. Ziegler came up with another highlight play on the defensive end, intercepting an inbounds pass near half court before falling into the stands, which led to a foul on a driving layup. The Cougars, however, couldn’t convert their free throws, and the Vulcans held on for a 78-73 win.
Kelly Hardeman finished with 12 points, all of which came in the second half. Katie Powell sank three first half 3-pointers and tallied 10 points in the loss, while Maggie Dumphy recorded six points, four rebounds, and three blocks.
Azusa Pacific (16-7, 14-3) entered Monday night’s game one game back of Academy of Art in the PacWest race, but controlled its own destiny with a matchup with the Urban Knights looming on Feb. 27. The Cougars can now only win a PacWest championship if Art U drops two of its remaining four regular season games.
The Cougars will close out their home slate against Point Loma on Saturday, before ending the regular season with road games at Academy of Art and Holy Names on Feb. 27 and March 1.