Azusa Pacific 55
COSTA MESA, Calif. –Last year, Azusa Pacific swept 3 games from rival Vanguard, needing 5 overtime periods to win the final 2, one of which came in the GSAC Tournament semifinals. This year, the NAIA’s No. 21-ranked Lions made sure overtime was avoided, and they got the win to boot.
Vanguard opened the second half with a 19-9 run to blow open a tie game and then held off a late Azusa Pacific rally for a 58-55 win over the Cougars in Costa Mesa.
With the game tied 26-26 at the intermission, Vanguard’s Lacy Mills hit a pair of 3-pointers to key the Lions’ run over the first 10 minutes of the second half, giving the Lions a 45-35 lead they would never lose.
The Cougars responded with 6 straight points to cut the deficit to 4 (45-41) with 6:53 to play, but the Lions pushed the margin back up to 11 (52-41) with 5:04 to play, scoring 7 straight points, 4 of them from Deborah Candelaria. The Lions led by 10 (57-47) with 2:35 to play when Nicolette Dresback scored 5 straight points to cut the deficit to 5 (57-52) with 1:38 to play. Vanguard made 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead back up to 6, but Jaclyn Rice buried a trey with 25 seconds left to make it a one-possession game.
Vanguard then missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 situation, and the Cougars’ Lindsey Westgrabbed the rebound to give the Cougars a chance to force overtime. The Cougars had a pair of chances in the final 10 seconds to force overtime, but their 2 three-point attempts, one by Rice and another by Candis Regan, rattled out and Vanguard escaped with its first win over Azusa Pacific in the past 6 meetings.
The Cougars actually had to play catch-up all night, falling behind 15-5 at the outset. Yet, the Cougars fought back and used a 18-8 spurt to tie the game at 23 with 1:14 to play. The Cougars took their first lead just 13 seconds later on a pair of Kelsey Hudson free throws.
Dresback led all players with 19 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. Hudson and West each chipped in with 11 points apiece. West grabbed 6 rebounds.
With the loss, Azusa Pacific falls to 6-13 overall, 4-4 GSAC. Vanguard improves to 13-7, and continues to hold its lead atop the GSAC at 8-1.