SANTA CLARITA, Calif. – After 4 straight years of vying for conference championships, a youthful Azusa Pacific has has been relegated to play the role of spoiler this year. But even in that role the Cougars seemingly excel and have proven to be a thorn in the side of the NAIA’s top-10 ranked The Master’s.
The Cougars used an 11-4 run early in the second half to assume a 9-point lead and take control of play and then held off The Master’s down the stretch to knock off the No. 6-ranked Mustangs, 74-68, for the second time this season. The loss puts a serious dent in The Master’s pursuit of a first-ever GSAC crown while the victory continues Azusa Pacific’s wild ride through the GSAC.
Freshman Lindsey West led the Cougars with 22 points, including 16 in the second half, converting 8-of-12 shots from the floor. The Cougars led by 14 (51-37) following a Jaclyn Rice jumper with 13 minutes remaining. However, The Master’s rallied back into the game and cut the Cougar lead to 5 (56-51) with 9:27 to play. West then scored the Cougars’ next 4 points to stymie the Mustang run.
The Master’s would get no closer than 4 the rest of the way. West’s putback of a Candice Regan miss with 1:39 left put the Cougars up 71-64 and sealed the victory. However, it was Regan who carried the Cougars in the first half, nailing 4-of-6 3-point shots to score all 12 of her points in the first half and give Azusa Pacific a 32-30 halftime lead.
Liz DeWaalmalefyt led the Mustangs with 18 points. Amy Van Doesberg had 17 points and a game-high 9 rebounds. She was leading the Mustang charge back into the game until foul trouble saddled her on the bench. The Cougars took advantage by opening their largest lead. Van Doesberg returned and immediately The Master’s roared back behind Van Doesberg’s 7 consecutive points. However, she was hit with her fifth foul with 6:21 left to play, allowing the Cougars to manage some control of the interior game down the stretch.
Kelsey Hudson added 12 points for the Cougars while Rice finished with 10. As was the case when Azusa Pacific upset The Master’s in Azusa back in January, the Cougars shot a sizzling .556 (25-for-45) from the floor tonight, which included an 8-for-15 pace from 3-point territory.
With the victory, the Cougars improve to 8-17 overall, 6-8 in the GSAC. The Master’s falls to 18-4 overall, 11-3 in the GSAC.