AZUSA, Calif. -- When Azusa Pacific head coach Danelle Liles called a timeout with 24 seconds left in the game with her team trailing 71-70, she had no idea that the play the Cougars would run to score the winning basket would be unrecognizable to what she had drawn on her clipboard.
The desired effect was still achieved when Monica Somers found Lindsey West with an over-the-top lob that West caught and banked home with 11 seconds remaining giving the NAIA’s No. 14-ranked Cougars a much needed 72-71 win over No. 25-ranked Concordia, Saturday night, at the Felix Event Center.
“At one point we had the ball and I called for it trying to reverse it,” said Somers. “I saw the tips of Lindsey’s fingers and threw it over the top and she was able to make it.”
West then came up with a huge play on the defensive end as she blocked a shot by Kristine Jensen with just 1.3 seconds left preserving the win.
West had another monster game as she scored a game-high 31 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. She moved into second place on the Cougars’ all-time scoring list passing Amy Walter. West has totaled 1,779 career points and is 150 points away from being the leading scorer in program history.
“Right now I’m just really happy to get the win,” said West in reference to her accomplishment. “I’m just focused on how our team is coming together. If it happens, it happens, but it is my senior year and I would just like to go far as a team.”
The win tonight greater enhanced the Cougars chances of finishing in the top half of the GSAC but, with 5 conference games remaining, a lot has yet to develop. What has come to fruition is the end of Azusa Pacific’s 2-game losing skid that had it questioning itself.
“We had a good talk as a team and that’s what you saw on that last play. Nobody wanted to make a play unless they had an opportunity. We were unselfish and got a win because of it,” said Somers.
The Cougars almost squandered a big lead that they had built in a solid offensive first half. Azusa Pacific shot 58 percent as it built a 12-point advantage at the break. While the past few weeks have seen poor shooting performances tonight the Cougars were scoring with much more ease.
The Eagles proved to have mettle indicative of their recent solid play that has landed them in the top-25. They began to work their way back into the game with a 10-0 run that cut a 49-35 deficit into just a 4 point hole. West ended the run with a lay-up to put the Cougars up 51-45 but Concordia was back into the contest.
“There were a lot of momentum shifts in the game tonight and that’s basketball,” said Liles. “There are going to be runs by both teams and that is what happened tonight. Our focus recently has been on playing as a team and we did that.”
Despite all the quality aspects of the Cougars’ play they were still caught from behind with just over 4 minutes remaining when Tristen Ryan sank a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a 65-63 advantage.
Meliame Hala’ufia answered with a basket to tie the score for the first time and it remained in the balance the rest of the way. Jensen sank a pair of free throws with 41 seconds left to put the visitors up 71-68. Liz Torres then fouled West and put her on the line where she made both to pull the Cougars within a point.
When the Eagles inbounded the ball to Monica Quan, she was immediately double teamed in the corner and she promptly turned the ball over much to the chagrin of her head coach, Tod Corman, who wanted her to call a timeout. That miscue turned into just the opportunity the Cougars needed to score the winning hoop.
Azusa Pacific (18-7, 10-5) will be in action again on Tuesday night when it travels to Riverside to battle California Baptist.