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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 1:15 pm | Fair 68º

Sports: A Noozhawk Partnership with Santa Barbara Athletic Round Table, The Lab, and American Riviera Bank

Azusa Pacific Edges Westmont, 69-63

Stephanie Anderson paces Warriors with 16 points, but Cougars' second-half surge is too much to overcome.

Westmont’s women’s basketball team  suffered its second Golden State Athletic Conference  loss of the season Tuesday, falling to No. 16 Azusa Pacific, 69-63.

The first half saw seven lead changes and eight ties with neither team gaining more than a five-point advantage. The Warriors connected on 12 of 13 free-throw attempts in the opening frame but struggled from the field, making just nine of 26 attempts (34.6 percent).

With Westmont down by five (19-14) midway through the first half, sophomore guard Jessica Case (11 points) scored on a layup and then a jumper, pulling the visiting Warriors to within one (19-18). Sarah Leathers (11 points, five rebounds) responded for the Cougars with a three-pointer, but a jumper by freshman forward Angel Blanco (four points) and two free throws by senior forward Stephanie Anderson evened the score at 22 with 5:39 remaining before intermission. Anderson, who made four of five attempts from beyond the arc, led the Warriors (2-2, 0-2) with 16 points.

Junior guard Lindsey Chessum (11 points, five assists) gave the Warriors a 25-22 lead but Azusa Pacific’s Kate Shipp (eight points) responded with a three of her own to produce the half’s fifth tie. With just under four minutes remaining, Case nailed two free throws before Kristie Hala’ufia laid the ball in the basket to tie the game again, this time at 27.

Blanco gave the Warriors another two-point lead, which was answered by Michelle Byrd (14 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists). With 1:19 remaining, sophomore post player Alisha Heglund (four points) converted one of two free throws before a layup by Kristel Eddigton gave Azusa Pacific (4-1, 2-0) its first lead in more than four minutes (31-30).

A three-point field goal by junior forward Annie Johnson (five points, three rebounds) gave Westmont a two-point advantage (33-31) with 55 seconds remaining in the half. But the half ended in a 33-33 tie on a layup by Shipp.

The second half picked up where the first half left off. With the score tied at 37, however, Azusa Pacific produced a 10-3 run to claim a 47-40 advantage with 11:23 left in the game. The Warriors responded with an 11-4 of their own over the next five minutes to tie the score at 51. The run consisted of two field goals each by Chessum and senior post player Brittney Crawford (12 points, seven rebounds) and a long-range bomb by Anderson.

But the Cougars pulled ahead on a layup by Hala’ufia and stayed just out of reach of the Warriors over the remainder of the game. A jumper by Johnson with 1:26 showing on the clock pulled Westmont to within two points (63-61), but Azusa Pacific made six of six free-throw attempts down the stretch to preserve the victory.

In other GSAC action, No. 2 Vanguard snuck by California Baptist 90-87 in Riverside. No. 19 The Master’s won 75-63 at Fresno Pacific and Hope International defeated visiting Biola 62-57. Concordia claimed a 65-59 victory at San Diego Christian.

Westmont will host San Diego Christian in its home opener Saturday as part of a men’s and women’s double-header. The women will tip off in Murchison Gymnasium  at 5:30 p.m.

Ron Smith is Westmont College‘s sports information director.

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