Northeastern State pulls away late from Zias

ENMU’s Elizabeth Richards applies defensive pressure Northeastern State’s Jezzal Quintana during Thursday night’s Lone Star Conference women’s crossover game at Greyhound Arena. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — This isn’t supposed to be the way Northeastern State’s women win basketball games.

A team that usually relies on defense put together its best offensive performance of the season Thursday night to beat Eastern New Mexico University 81-69 in a Lone Star Conference crossover game at Greyhound Arena.

The Lady Reds (8-4) used a 14-0 run late in the first half to take control, and pulled away late with the help of 20-of-25 free throw shooting. It was only the third time Northeastern State scored more than 65 points this season.

“I take nothing away from (Eastern); they have a good team,” Northeastern State coach Randy Gipson said. “That was the hardest 12-point win I’ve ever been a part of.”

Simply put, the Zias couldn’t get enough stops in the second half to get over the top. The patient Lady Reds took the lead for good at 56-53 on Charlotte Dikeman’s three-point play with 9:44 left and had few empty possessions down the stretch.

Reserve Jessica White led four players in double figures for Northeastern with 14 points, who got points from all 11 players who saw action. Senior guard Wendy Fehrenbach scored 10 of her 12 points in the first half, while junior forward Adrienne Barnhill posted a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

“Every trip on offense they set like 50 screens,” said senior guard Heather Brown, who led the Zias (8-4) with 19 points. “We just had some miscommunication (on defense).”

ENMU coach Linden Weese subbed his starters out less than four minutes into the game trying to find the energy the team had in its 73-61 victory over Lubbock Christian in its last outing.

“I couldn’t figure out what the problem was,” Weese said. “That’s a team we should be able to get out and run against, and we couldn’t do it.”

The Zias opened a 25-20 lead on two free throws by freshman guard Ashley Davis with 4:48 left in the half, but two 3-pointers by Brazilian Monica Atilio and another by Fehrenbach fueled the Lady Reds’ run.

“We were slow (early),” Brown said. “Coach wanted us to run, but we didn’t play very well together like we did the other night.”

ENMU closed to 34-31 at halftime and led twice in the second half, the latter at 45-43 on Lindsey Wood’s 3-pointer with 14:20 left. The Zias were within four with under six minutes left, but managed three field goals the rest of the way.

“Their kids were just as tired as ours were, but they played good and we didn’t,” Weese said. “They were just mentally tougher.”

Senior forward Elizabeth Richards also had a double-double for the Zias, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while senior post Riikka Lehtonen added 12 points.