COSTA MESA — Competing against winless California Maritime Academy on Thursday, the unbeaten and No. 4-ranked Vanguard University women's basketball team didn't figure to have to worry about finding its sea legs.
But when the visiting Keelhaulers hit five of their first seven three-point attempts, then added a sixth three ball to take a 22-15 lead midway through the opening half, Lions Coach Russ Davis wondered if his three-game winning streak was headed for an unexpected iceberg.
"You look at their stats and they haven't shot like that the whole year," Davis said of a Cal Maritime squad that does not have a player taller than 5-foot-10 and had been averaging just fewer than 50 points per game, while allowing 80. "But they came out and started feeling it and when teams start feeling it like that, I start worrying a little. I knew they couldn't keep it going like that, but we had to play four different defenses before we could figure it out."
Vanguard helped Davis feel better, as the Lions rallied for an 80-50 nonconference triumph that eventually resembled the expected disparity between the two teams.
The hosts used a 23-4 run over the final 9:13 of the first half to claim a 38-26 lead at the break, then continued to build the lead until the final minute.
Freshman Samantha Doucette, making her first collegiate start, scored a career-high 17 points to match senior Chelsea Alfafara and junior Nicole Ballestero for team-high scoring honors.
Doucette, inserted into the starting five to try to chase away some slow offensive starts, Davis said, missed her first three shots. But she made her next five — all from the perimeter, including a three-pointer — to net 11 points by intermission.
Alfafara heated up after halftime, hitting four of five three-point attempts in the final 20 minutes to finish five for 10 from beyond the arc.
Ballestero, a transfer from the University of San Diego who came in averaging nearly 20 points per contest, supplied her typically steady offense to allow the Lions to pull away. She also finished with seven assists to help the Lions produce 23 dimes on their 27 field goals.
"[Doucette] gives us a lot of offense and [junior guard Taylor Belmont] gives us energy," Davis said of the other new addition to the starting lineup.
Belmont had seven points and eight assists, without a turnover in 25 minutes, to earn praise from Davis.
Senior Esther Timmermans, who at 6-2 towered over the competition, had a game-high 11 rebounds to go with seven points and two assists.
Vanguard forced 18 turnovers, seven more than it committed, and was nine for 24 from three-point range (37.5%), while making 10 for 26 inside the arc (38.7%).
The Lions held the Keelhaulers to six foul shots, of which they converted only three.
But Cal Maritime junior Javier Brantley torched the Lions for 24 points by making nine of 14 from the field, including five of nine from threedom.
"She got almost half their points," Davis said of Brantley, who he said benefited from too many open looks.
"We've got to understand and listen to scouting reports better," Davis said. "We let [Brantley] get going early and she got them their lead and kept them in the game for a while. We've got to do a better job of helping off and making their other people beat us."
Brantley had 11 of her 13 first-half points in the first 6:29 to help the visitors seize a 19-12 advantage.
Junior Julia Tani made four of seven three-point tries on her way to 16 points for the visitors, who fell to 0-8.
Vanguard (3-0) will get a much tougher test in its next game, Dec. 8, when No. 5-ranked Westminster (6-1) visits.
"The new poll comes out Monday and I expect both us and Westminster to move up," Davis said. "So that will be a big game for us."
Vanguard 80, Cal Maritime 50
CM – Pitts 2, Sands 2, Brantley 24, Tani 16, Guerrero 2, Monroe 4.
3-pt. goals – Brantley 5, Tani 4.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
VU – Doucette 17, Timmermans 6, Ballestero 17, Alfafara 17, Belmont 7. Bednar 6, Kennedy 5, Harter 3, M. Drennan 2
3-pt. goals – Alfafara 5, Ballestero 2, Doucette 1, Kennedy 1, Harter 1, Belmont 1.
Fouled out – None.
Technicals – None.
Halftime – VU 38-26.