Zias’ comeback falls short

CNJ staff

KINGSVILLE, Texas — Sophomore guard Kayla Naylor hit two clinching free throws with one second left and Texas A&M-Kingsville held off Eastern New Mexico University 66-62 Wednesday night in the Lone Star Conference South Division women’s opener for both teams.

The Javelinas (5-9, 1-0) led all the way, but nearly blew a 21-point, first-half lead as the Zias (3-10, 0-1) pulled within one possession several times in the late going.

Naylor led five Kingsville players in double figures with 13 points, followed by Dyana Bullinger and LaKeisha Jones with 11 each and Felicia Soza and Lana Toki with 10 apiece. Senior guard Ali Scott added nine off the bench for the Javs.

Meantime, ENMU got game highs of 15 points and 12 rebounds from freshman forward Til-Lois Fifer. Freshman guard Samantha Matta added 14 points and sophomore forward Megan Kabrick finished with 11 points and seven boards.

Naylor hit a 3-pointer on the game’s opening possession — her only 3-point connection on six attempts in the game — and the Javelinas never relinquished the lead.

Kingsville went on a 10-0 run over four minutes to open a 23-10 cushion with 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the half, and extended the margin to 38-17 and 41-20 late in the half. Kabrick’s layup with 18 seconds left cut the margin to 19 at halftime.

The Zias then ran off the first 14 points of the second half, pulling to 41-36 on a 3-pointer by Matta with 15:56 left. An 8-0 run, capped by Matta’s two free throws, made it 52-51 with 9:27 left, but the Zias then went five possessions without scoring, including four turnovers.

Fifer’s basket with 3:38 left pulled ENMU to 62-59, but the Zias did not score from the field the rest of the way. Matta hit the first of two free throws, making it 64-62 with 15 seconds left, and Kabrick rebounded the missed second shot to give ENMU a final chance.

But Fifer’s jumper was off the mark and Jones rebounded for Kingsville, setting the stage for Naylor’s clinching free throws.