Zias made big strides in 2003-04

By Dave Wagner

Even though they ended the season with three lopsided losses, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team surprised a lot of people in 2003-04.

Sophomore forward Elizabeth Richards wasn’t one of them.

“I always knew we had the potential to do well,” said Richards, who played in four Class 2A state championship games at Texico High School, winning the last three of them. “It was a bad way to end the season, but we still did better than anybody expected us to do.”

Picked for last place in the Lone Star Conference South Division and coming off 5-20 and 7-20 seasons, the Zias posted a 16-12 record and went into the final weekend of the regular campaign tied for first place with West Texas A&M.

Talented Angelo State and Abilene Christian dominated the Zias in the final two games of the regular season, and the Zias finished tied with those teams for second place in the South at 10-4, one game behind West Texas A&M.

Starters Laci Lee and Jereena Bosket went down to injury at ACU, and the shorthanded Zias were no match for Northeastern State in the first round of the LSC tournament.

“It’s a long year and it takes a toll on you,” second-year ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said. “But I thought the kids still fought hard.

“I knew (after last season) that we had some talent — we just needed a few extra pieces. Next year, we just need to add a couple more pieces.”

The Zias lose only Bosket, a 6-foot post, to graduation. They’ll look for at least one dominant inside player for next season and also try to add depth, Buzard said.

Four players finished the season averaging in double figures, led by Lee (14.6). The Zias also shot the ball better than in the past, and were one of the LSC’s top free throw shooting teams.

Buzard said travel in the LSC takes a toll. Most teams have travel “partners” and switch off from Thursday to Saturday on road trips.

“They’re long trips,” Buzard said. “But it’s one of the best conferences in the nation in terms of competition, and that’s what makes it enjoyable.”

Richards pointed to an LSC crossover win at Cameron in early January as a turning point. The Zias were 4-7 going into that tilt and trailed by double figures well into the second half, but rallied late for a 65-63 win over the Lady Aggies and went on to win 12 of 14 games.

A one-point loss at home to ACU early in South play only seemed to spur the Zias. They upended Angelo two nights later and went on a seven-game winning streak before losing their final three.

“It just seemed like we stopped clicking (at the end),” said the 5-foot-11 Richards, who averaged 12.1 points per game and was fourth in the conference in rebounding (8.1).

“It was an OK season,” she said of her individual performance. “I still don’t think I played all the way to my potential. I still have a lot of improving to do.”

Lone Star Conference South: 10-4 (three-way tie for 2nd)
Scoring average: 66.4
Opponents’ average: 64.6
Individual leaders
Laci Lee 14.6, Elizabeth Richards 12.1, Jereena Bosket 11.3, Heather Brown 10.1.
Rebounding: Richards 8.1, Lee 7.0, Bosket 6.1.
Assists: Brown 2.9, Lee 2.7, Richards 2.2.