AZUSA, Calif. -- While thievery at the Felix Event Center is frowned upon, tonight Lindsey West proved to be an exception to the rule.
With time running down inside 15 seconds and Azusa Pacific in possession hanging on to a precariously slim 2 point lead Ashley Oakes turned the ball over and it led to a California Baptist fast break.
With point guard Nicole Davis, who had already torched the Cougars for 17 points, charging toward the basket all head coach Danelle Liles could think about was one thing.
“Don’t allow a 3,” she said. “If she hits a 2 then we go into overtime I just didn’t want to see a 3 at that point.”
What Liles got was better than either of those as a hustling West, getting back on defense, poked the ball away from Davis from behind. West then promptly gained control of the ball and threw it ahead to Alyssa Ferdaszewski in the frontcourt, who ran out the clock.
The smart defensive play proved to be the difference as the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Cougars held on for a 71-69 victory over the Lancers. The win was the tenth consecutive victory for Azusa Pacific.
“I knew that she was going to try and get it to (Jessica) Fisiikava because she had been on fire. I was just trying to get in the way of the pass. After I hit it I saw Alyssa ahead of me and got the ball to her,” said West.
The reversal of fortune was stunning considering the Lancers had led throughout the game, at one point getting the margin up to 16 points late in the first half. However, West, GSAC Player of the Week, would not let her team falter in the end as she scored the final 5 points of the game turning a 3 point deficit into the win.
The points capped a 21-11 run by the Cougars that bridged from the 11:28 mark to the final horn.
“It was a great game. California Baptist did a great job of shooting but I have to give our girls credit,” said Liles. “We weren’t shooting well from the outside but we continued to work it inside.”
West finished the contest with a game-high 20 points to go along with 7 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists. Sarah Leathers added 17 points, 4 assists and 4 rebounds for the Cougars.
Azusa Pacific had an early 5-4 lead before a triple by Fisiikava put the Lancers ahead by a point less than 4 minutes into the game. The Cougars were not out in front again until a putback by Ashley Oakes made it 61-60 with 6:38 to play.
The Lancers (9-6, 3-2) took a 12 point lead into intermission on the strength of their quality perimeter shooting. California Baptist knocked down 8 3-pointers, including 3 apiece by Davis and Greenberg, en route to the 43-31 advantage.
The Cougars (13-3, 5-1) were frustrated by the Lancers zone defense and forced 3-point shots throughout the first half. Of the Cougars’ 32 field goal attempts, 20 were from downtown.
They connected just 6 times allowing the Lancers to remain in their zone and keep the Cougars from getting to the middle of the paint which has been a staple for them this season.
Azusa Pacific will next hit the road and travel south to take on Point Loma Nazarene on Saturday, January 14, at 5:30 p.m. It will be a test for the Cougars who have lost 7 straight to the Sea Lions. Their last win over Point Loma Nazarene was an 87-79 decision in San Diego early in the 2002 season.