Falling behind by as many as 22 points in the second half, The Master’s College women’s basketball team rallied valiantly Tuesday evening but couldn’t quite catch No. 12 Azusa Pacific 77-70 in the San Gabriel Valley.
The Mustangs’ fifth loss in their past six outings dropped them to 2-7 in GSAC play and 9-12 overall.
Down 56-34 with 14:45 remaining, the Mustangs methodically climbed back into contest, using mini-runs to inch ever closer. One of the more significant bursts was of the 8-0 variety as Kimmy Iverson and Ella Joines sandwiched a pair of three pointers around two Whitney Best free throws to slice the deficit to 65-55 with 6:59 left.
A Cougar bucket interrupted the skein but four consecutive Lena Rivera free throws made it an eight-point game (67-59) less than two minutes later. Again, the Cougars responded, tallying four straight points to lengthen their advantage to 71-59 at the 3:37 mark.
Still, the Mustangs weren’t finished. Holding the Cougars scoreless for the next three minutes while stringing together six consecutive points, the Mustangs pulled within 71-65 with just over a minute left. Rivera keyed the late surge with a jumper while Iverson added the other four points.
But, that would be as close as they would get as the Cougars snapped the scoreless drought with a jumper and then finished things off with four straight free throws.
The Cougars’ climb to their comfortable second-half margin started toward the latter end of the opening period when they tore off a 16-5 run over the final five minutes, turning a five-point game (27-22) into a 43-27 advantage at halftime.
Going 5-8 from behind the arc, the Cougars shot nearly 58% from the field in the first half while the Mustangs converted at a 36% clip.
The Cougars’ hot hand continued into the first few minutes of the second half, as they hit six of their first 11 shots, including two from behind the arc, en route to the 22-point mountain that the Mustangs fought so hard to climb.
Notching her fifth double-double of the season, Rivera paced the Mustangs with 16 points and yanked down a game-high 13 rebounds. She was joined in double figures by Joines who came off the bench to pour in 11 points.
Looking to make up ground in the standings, the Mustangs start the second half of conference play Saturday evening when they host San Diego Christian. The Hawks beat the Mustangs 67-62 in the GSAC opener back on December 3.