TexAnns edge Zias on buzzer-beater

CNJ staff

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — For a brief moment, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team had its first Lone Star Conference South Division victory in sight. Then, just like that, Tarleton State took it away.

ENMU senior Heather Brown’s basket gave the Zias a one-point lead with just over six seconds left Saturday night, but senior guard Katie Crawford took the inbounds pass and drove for a layup as time expired to give the TexAnns a 63-62 victory.

The Zias (9-9, 0-6 South) have now dropped five in a row, and for the third time in that stretch they tried unsuccessfully to come back from a major deficit. This time the Zias fell behind 32-16 late in the first half before rallying to build as much as a five-point lead in the second stanza.

“I’m not upset with anything,” ENMU women’s coach Linden Weese said. “I just feel bad for the kids. We’re playing well enough to get a win and we don’t have anything to show for it.

“We played well in the second half. We played like we did against LCU (Lubbock Christian, in a dominating performance last month at Greyhound Arena).”

Senior forward Elizabeth Richards went 11-for-17 from the field en route to a career-best 28 points for the Zias, while senior post Riikka Lehtonen scored 14 points and Brown added 11. Richards, whose previous best was 25 points on two occasions, also had a team-high seven rebounds.

Crawford led the TexAnns (10-5, 3-2) with 20 points, including four 3-pointers, while freshman forward Krystal Cole added 15 points.

The Zias led 2-0 and 4-2 early, but Crawford had a pair of 3-pointers as Tarleton streaked in front. The TexAnns opened a 25-10 lead with less than six minutes to go in the half 16 before 3-pointers by Brown and freshman Megan Kabrick pulled ENMU to within 32-22 at the break.

The Zias dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half, and when Lehtonen made two free throws at the 9:41 mark they led 45-40 after a 29-8 run.

Richards hit a pair of 3-pointers, the latter with just over three minutes left, to keep the Zias in front 58-54. Her two free throws made it 60-56 at the 2:25 mark.

But Crawford’s long 3-pointer made it a one-point game 11 seconds later — “It was deep enough to be a ‘4,’” Weese quipped — before Brittney Haley’s basket put the TexAnns back in front with 24 seconds left and set the stage for the dramatic finish.
Weese said fatigue from Thursday’s double-overtime loss at Midwestern State could have been a factor.

“I don’t think it was in our kids’ minds at all,” he said. “This was probably as confident as team as we put on the floor all year. If they’ll continue to play that way, I think we’ll get this turned around.”