It didn’t matter to No. 12 Azusa Pacific that it was senior night at The Master’s College. The defending national champions had other concerns with which to deal, namely, finishing as high as possible in the GSAC race with next week’s conference tournament looming.
So, the Cougars (21-6, 14-3) went out and established superiority quickly and never looked back in an 80-58 beating of the Mustangs (12-17, 5-12). The loss was the club’s third in its last four outings and kept it in a seventh-place tie with Fresno Pacific, one game ahead of Concordia with only Saturday night’s regular-season finale at Biola remaining.
Paced by Amber Williams, the Cougars raced to a 19-3 advantage in the first 4:40 of play, putting to rest any hopes of a “senior night” upset by the Mustangs. Williams, who dominated to the tune of 22 points and 22 rebounds, scored the first bucket of the game and added a three-point play during the burst.
Dazed by the Cougars’ fast start, the Mustangs regained some equilibrium on a Zoe Scott three-pointer at the 14:24 mark and then pulled to within 23-12 on a Scott jumper, this one of the two-point variety, a little more than three minutes later.
But, that was as close as the Cougars would allow them as the visitors held the Mustangs scoreless over a 6:10 stretch while reeling off 10 consecutive points to glide to a 39-16 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. Eventually, they led 42-22 at the break.
Over the opening 20 minutes, the Cougars didn’t exactly light up, shooting at a 39.5% clip but a 10-2 advantage in the paint, served them well. Williams led the way with 11 points and nine rebounds. Meanwhile, the Mustangs managed just 28% accuracy with Scott’s eight points pacing them.
Scott, who was the lone double-figure scorer for the Mustangs with 17 points, had a nice second half, too, tallying nine points, all of them coming on a trio of trifectas. If not for that, the Mustangs would have been in an even deeper hole.
As it was, the Cougars enjoyed the comfort of a lead that flirted with and then surpassed the 20-point plateau. The largest lead of the game came with 9:32 remaining when Jasmyn Reed’s layup made it 66-41.
That caused a little stir by the Mustangs who responded with a 7-0 run over a four-minute span, closing to 66-48 on a Lauren Labat free throw at the 5:32 mark. Senior Morgan Schwegler keyed the run with a jumper in the lane, Millie Rivera added a pair of free throws, and Lindsey Levanen sank another jump shot.
One thing was evident, though, in this final home game of the season and that was the “no quit” attitude of the squad which played its heart out down the stretch, giving the partisan crowd something to cheer about.
Schwegler, one of those four seniors playing her final home game, tallied eight points and grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Kimmy Iverson equaled that point total and so did freshman Whitney Best.
With a playoff berth still in the balance, the Mustangs head to La Mirada on Saturday to take on a Biola squad that beat them 60-47 in early December. Fresno Pacific hosts Hope International and Concordia plays at San Diego Christian.