Azusa Pacific defeated Point Loma Nazarene 64-56 in a NCCAA playoff game on Tuesday night in an exciting comeback victory.
The Cougars struggled early, trailing the Sea Lion’s until the last two minutes of the game until a steal and layup by senior guard Morgan Ellis gave the Cougars their first lead of the night.
The Cougars kept the lead for the rest of the game, taking the win and advancing to play PacWest regular season champs California Baptist on Thursday.
The win did not come easy.
Point Loma came out strong early in the game, gaining the lead with a three pointer 30 seconds in and maintaining it throughout the majority of the game.
Junior guard Savannah Erskine lead the charge for Point Loma finishing the game with 16 points, 4 assists, and 3 steals.
Point Loma’s zone defense proved to be very effective in stopping the Cougars offensively. In the first half only six of the Cougars’ 31 points were in the paint, and the team went a below par 5-for-19 from beyond the arch.
The Sea Lions eventually extended their lead to 16 points with 3:52 remaining in the first half.
“We don’t like to give up runs, but it doesn’t matter what we like sometimes cause it just seems like it happens,” coach T.J Hardeman said.
The rest of the first half was all Cougars.
The last three minutes of the half the Cougars went on a 12-0 run, and brought the score to 31-35.
Ellis made the difference by coming off the bench and nailing three 3-pointers.
“Tonight she just did a great job of shooting the ball when she was open and in a time when we were struggling and saying ‘who’s going to shoot the ball for us?’”Hardeman said.
Point Loma answered back in the second half, and raised their lead to 10 with 16:46 remaining.
The Cougars recovered to bring the game to within 2 points.
Junior guard Tianna Jones scored to tie the game for the first time 43-43.
The game changed hands again as Loma eventually got their last lead of the night getting up to 53 points with 6:36 left.
Ellis made the game-changing play with the game tied 53-53 with 2:08 left, stealing the ball and scoring the lay-up to put Azusa ahead.
“I wasn’t expecting to get the steal, I just jumped into the passing lane and got it. I think that was a crucial point in the game that gave our team spark and energy,”Ellis said.
After that play, Point Loma never regained the lead.
True freshman forward Kelly Hardeman and junior forward Hannah Kenny also had big contributions to the game.
Hardeman scored 14 points, with 4 blocks and 2 steals.
Kenny scored 10 points, with 2 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal.
Azusa Pacific will play at first seeded Cal. Baptist on Thursday night at 5:00 for the regional final.