AZUSA, Calif. -- After a tough stretch shooting the basketball, sophomore point guard Sarah Leathers has definitely turned the corner.
Knocking down 3-point jumpers throughout the game, mostly from the left wing, Leathers scored all 21 of her points on 7 makes from 3-point range, leading the NAIA’s No. 9-ranked Azusa Pacific to a 83-67 win over San Diego Christian, Tuesday night, at the Felix Event Center.
Leathers finished 7-for-12 from downtown, coming within a trey of tying the school record of 8 set by Marie Dyk in 2004. While Leathers had been 7-for-19 over her past 2 games from long distance, she was only 7-for-34 during the previous 5 games.
Clearly she was working her way back to form, but tonight she regained it - and then some. “My teammates were able to penetrate and when they did they were looking for me,” said Leathers. “They kept encouraging me to shoot which kept my confidence up.”
Head coach Danelle Liles agreed: “I think Sarah is a great shooter and I’m glad she had the night that she did because she hasn’t been shooting great recently so hopefully this gets her back on track."
Based on the way the game started it would have been hard to imagine that Azusa Pacific would have led at halftime by only 12. The Cougars (14-4, 6-2) came out smoking as they scored the first 7 points of the game.
After a LeRaya Wilson lay-up made it 7-2, Azusa Pacific made 5 consecutive shots as part of a 19-2 run that put them comfortably in front. That was when Leathers began to get it going from the outside. She was unconscious shooting from long distance as she nailed 3 triples during the run and 4 overall en route to 12 first half points.
“I’ve been putting up a lot of shots in practice with Ashley (Oakes),” said Leathers. “Tonight I felt relaxed and my teammates have been supportive. I knew it would come back.”
Incredibly enough, the Hawks (1-14, 0-8) did not roll over at that point, but began to fight back. Wilson hit a jumper to end the run and make it a 26-6 game. After a basket by West pushed the lead back to 22 with 7:09 remaining in the first half, the Hawks ended the half on a 19-9 run to climb within 12.
A big part of the problem was the sudden rash of turnovers that plagued Azusa Pacific. A serious of traveling violations gave San Diego Christian the opportunity to score while taking possessions away from the Cougars.
The Hawks kept the pressure on at the outset of the second half. Amy Showers opened the scoring with a 3 to cut the lead that had been as big as 22 down to only 9. The basket forced an immediate timeout by Liles.
“Right now our bench is just not ready to go,” said Liles regarding the Cougars’ breakdowns. “They have not been ready a couple of times and it has shown against Point Loma and tonight. I’m going to do my best to get them going.”
The timeout paid instant dividends as Monica Somers scored in the paint and then Leathers buried yet another 3-pointer to extend the lead back to 42-28. From there the Cougars settled back into a nice rhythm offensively and were not threatened again.
“We were frustrated after Saturday night. It was nice to come out and shoot well,” added Leathers.
“Overall, I was happy but our energy level is still not where it needs to be,” Liles said.
Lindsey West dominated the interior scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds for her second double-double of the season. Alyssa Ferdaszewski chipped in 14 points and 9 rebounds as she continued to torment GSAC opponents with her scoring ability.
The Cougars, who have won 11 of their past 12 games, next travels north to take on Fresno Pacific, Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m., at the Special Events Center.