FULLERTON, Calif. -- In a near carbon copy performance of its loss to The Master's this past Friday night, Azusa Pacific continued to struggle shooting the basketball and it cost them again.
Their trend of overcoming bad nights from the field appears to be over.
For the second consecutive game, poor 3-point shooting along with 12 missed free throws were too much for the NAIA’s No. 7-ranked Cougars to overcome as they fell to Hope International, 89-85, in double overtime, Tuesday night at the Darling Pavilion.
The Cougars shot a paltry 4-of-23 from 3-point range and connected on only 37 percent of their field goals in the game.
Malerie Rodrigues only made 2 field goals in scoring 5 points in the game but her 3-pointer from 21 feet out, straight away, with 55 seconds left in the second overtime gave the Royals an 87-83 lead.
Lindsey West answered with a jumper to cut the lead to 87-85 with 46 seconds left. The Cougars’ Ashley Oakes was then forced to foul Cynthia Hernandez, who was clutch at the charity stripe, who drained both free throws with 20 seconds remaining to push the Royals lead to 4.
Azusa Pacific got off a flurry of shots in the final seconds including 3 attempts from beyond the arc but could not put one in and found themselves coming up short for the second straight game.
The Royals were led by Jasmine Nault who had a big night pouring in 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, including 7 on the offensive end. Azusa Pacific lost the battle on the glass getting outrebounded by 12. West led the Cougars with 23 points and 8 rebounds.
For Hope International the win signified the end of a terrific comeback after it opened the game by falling behind by double digits. The Cougars sprinted out to a 19-4 lead as their active defense forced the Royals into multiple turnovers that they were able to convert into scores.
However, momentum began to suddenly shift when Sarah Nylander hit a 3-pointer to trigger a 10-0 Royal outburst that sliced the Cougars’ advantage to a slim 5 points. The 2 teams battled things out for the rest of the half before settling on a 32-32 tie at halftime.
The second half was a close affair that featured a tied game on 9 different occasions. The Royals were able to put a little breathing space between themselves and the Cougars a little over midway through the period when Stephanie Wenke broke a 53-53 tie with a trey. After Wenke made 1 of 2 free throws, Carly Andrews nailed a shot that capped a 6-0 spurt that put Hope International ahead 59-53.
The Cougars responded resiliently as they answered with a 6-0 run of their own finished off by a triple by Jaclyn Rice, who returned to the line-up after missing time with a foot injury, to move back in front, 60-59 with 3:17 remaining in regulation.
At this juncture it would seem likely that the Royals teams of years past would have found a way to come up short but this season has been different and Wenke provided a prime example as she answered with a triple of her own to reclaim a 62-60 lead for Hope International.
However, the Cougars would battle back and make their free throws down the stretch to pull back in front 66-65 with just under a minute left in the game. With 33.6 seconds remaining, Sarah Leathers came up with a big steal and called timeout as Azusa Pacific looked to set up an out-of-bounds play. The ball found its way into the hands of Monica Somers who was immediately fouled by Nault with 26 seconds on the clock.
Somers made 1-of-2 from the line to make it a 67-65 game. After a timeout, it appeared that Leathers had again come up with a huge turnover only to be whistled for a personal foul which sent Nault to the line. She calmly sank both free throws to forge a tie with just 8 seconds left. The Cougars had a chance but Somers missed a contested lay-up from the right side at the buzzer to force overtime.
In the first overtime session, the Royals took a 71-68 lead behind Andrews who scored inside and moments later hit 1-of-2 shots from the line before fouling out. West hit 2 free throws to make it a 71-70 game before Hernandez extended the lead back to 4 with 3 makes from the line in 2 consecutive trips.
Desperate to get some shots from the field to fall, Leathers launched a long trey from the left side that went in cutting the Royals slim advantage to 74-73 with just under a minute to play. Remarkably, Hernandez continued her parade to the free throw line where she went 7-for-8 in the first overtime alone.
With 4.4 seconds left and down by 3, Somers went to the line and made the first before intentionally missing the second. West muscled her way to track down the loose ball and fired and 8-foot baseline jumper that did not go. Oakes, in the right place at the right time, cradled the offensive board and called timeout. Trailing by 2, the Cougars executed a perfect baseline inbounds play as Leathers fired a pass into West who put in a lay-up off the glass at the buzzer to tie the game at 78 and force the second overtime.
The Royals then escaped the claw of Azusa Pacific (17-8, 9-5) behind more clutch baskets from Nault and the free throw shooting of Hernandez. The win snaps a 5-game losing streak that Hope International (15-8, 7-6) had against the Cougars.
Azusa Pacific will return home Saturday night and host Concordia in a game scheduled to tip-off at 5:30 p.m. at the Felix Event Center.