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The Long Ball Sets Mustangs Back

Posted: February 27, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Updated: April 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The Master's College freshman point guard Erica Inge (13) tries to drive around Azusa Pacific's Michelle Byrd (24) Tuesday night at Bross Gym on the TMC campus.

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Azusa Pacific's Sarah Leathers buried five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points as the No. 9 Cougars led virtually wire-to-wire in a 70-60 victory over The Master's College Tuesday night at Bross Gym.

The loss, which dropped the Mustangs to 10-8 in the Golden State Athletic Conference and 18-9 overall, put a severe crimp in their plans to host a first-round playoff game in the upcoming GSAC Tournament. The Mustangs now trail fourth-place Westmont (10-7 in the conference) by half a game in the quest for that home game on March 5.

The diminutive Leathers set the tone early, draining a 3-pointer 11 seconds into play to get the Cougars going.

The Mustangs fought back to go up 8-7 on two Stacy Nanninga free throws with 13:35 remaining, but Abby Johnson replicated that on the other end, starting an 8-0 spurt that took less than a minute to put the Cougars ahead 15-8.

Meanwhile, the Mustangs couldn't find the range and went without a point for three minutes until Lisa Chenoweth converted a pair of free tosses, fueling a 10-3 burst that Jenna Reed capped with a game-tying (18-18) layup at 8:59.

But Leathers fired back, drilling consecutive threes for a six-point lead while the Mustangs went almost another three minutes without scoring. An Amanda DuRocher free throw made it 26-19, but the Cougars continued to display a deft inside-outside game that resulted in wide-open looks.

They used several of those to end the half on an 11-5 run, taking a 37-24 cushion into the locker room. The Cougars shot 52 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes with Leathers collecting 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting, including 3-of-4 from behind the arc.

The contrast was stark on the other end with the Mustangs connecting on only 31 percent of their shots and going 0-for-9 from 3-point range.

The story of the second half was like an accordion as the Mustangs attempted to close the deficit while the Cougars did everything to keep the hosts off their backs.

It started with a 5-0 run by the Mustangs in the first 2:50 that sliced the deficit to 37-29, but a back-breaking three by Leathers moments later pushed the APU advantage back into double figures (41-29).

A Reed layup at the 12:13 mark cut the gap to 41-33, but consecutive baskets by the Cougars made it a 12-point game less than two minutes later.

An Erica Inge jumper with 7:20 remaining made it 47-39, but the Cougars answered with a decisive, 8-2 skein in a 90-second window to take a comfortable 55-41 lead.

That flurry was the difference-maker although the Mustangs made things interesting in the last few minutes. Scoring and fouling to get the ball back, the Mustangs closed to 59-52 on a Jenni Ritter trey with 1:16 remaining, but the Cougars caused the plan to eventually backfire as they went 11-for-14 from the line in the last minute to close out the win.

Nanninga put in another workman-like performance to pace the Mustangs, posting team-highs of 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Annie Gillespie finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

After playing five of their past seven games at home, the Mustangs hit the road for the final two regular-season tilts, starting with San Diego Christian in El Cajon on Saturday night.

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