Lions leave no middle ground

COSTA MESA — Basketball observers have noted for years that the mid-range jumper is vanishing from the game.

Vanguard University women's coach Russ Davis is partially to blame. And he doesn't mind a bit.

Davis' Lions, ranked No. 10 in the NAIA, used 15 layups and nine three-pointers to take care of visiting Point Loma Nazarene, 71-52, in the Golden State Athletic Conference opener for both teams Tuesday.

Vanguard (5-1) did manage to work in Esther Timmermans jumpers of 15, 12 and 14 feet on its way to making 27 of 57 field-goal attempts (47.4%). But those were clearly the anomaly as Lions' guards penetrated aggressively to either finish themselves or dish to opponents within a step or two from the basket.

"We are trying to play that way," Davis said of the inside-out offensive flow that combined with the Lions' trademark matchup zone defense to stymie the Sea Lions (6-3). "I thought [Timmermans] was terrific again. It's nice having a force down there. She was very efficient."

Timmermans, a 6-foot-1 junior Australian who transferred from Murray State College, made six of eight field-goal tries on her way to a team-best 13 points. She added eight rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes.

Junior Maree Drennan, another Australian who also transferred from Murray State, made five of six shots from the field (all layups) on her way to 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench.

Allison Burns, a 6-0 junior who adds to the productive front-line mix, chipped in seven points and three boards. She made all three of her field-goal attempts, all within sneezing distance of the rim.

Senior Paige Halberg had 11 points, four rebounds and four assists. She was one of five Lions to connect from three-point range. She also finished near the basket for two more field goals.

TJ Goddard, a 5-7 sophomore transfer from Utah State who saw her first action of the season after recovering from an injury, made three of five three-point tries to pace the winners' long-range brigade.

Alison Drennan, yet another Australian who transferred from Fresno State, was two of three from threedom, while Chelsea Alfafara, a junior Orange Coast College transfer, had a pair of three balls to account for most of her eight points.

After trailing, 4-0, Vanguard used a 14-4 run to establish control on its way to a 33-15 advantage.

Point Loma put together a 7-0 spurt that spanned both halves to close to within 11, but never got closer.

"I thought it was a very good team effort," Davis said. "I thought our defensive communication in the zone was excellent. [The visitors] took 20 seconds each time to finally figure out where we were and while they were figuring that out, we got in their head a little bit, because they couldn't shoot. We were mixing up our zones and the girls did a really nice job. I'm very proud of that."

Point Loma was just eight for 31 from the field before intermission (25.8%) and, thanks largely to 6-3 junior Nyla Bailey making eight of 10 field-goal tries in the final 20 minutes, finished 21 of 56 from the field (37.5%).

Bailey had 24 points to pace the Sea Lions, who had 11 turnovers, eight fewer than the hosts.

"We probably had too many turnovers and some of those were unforced," Davis said. "But we didn't let it affect us on defense."

Vanguard shot 51.7% from the field in the second half, in stark contrast to Saturday's first loss of the season in the finale of a tournament in Oregon in which the Lions made just three of 34 field-goal tries in the final 20 minutes (8.8%).

Sophomore point guard Taylor Belmont had five assists and two steals to go with her four points and Davis credited her ball-handling with diffusing the Sea Lions' press early.

barry.faulkner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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Golden State Athletic Conference

Vanguard 71, Point Loma Nazarene 52

PNL – Bailey 24, Campbell 2, Colon 8, Jackson 5, Berlinski 3, Rhoades 5, Crawford 3, Stanley 2.

3-pt. goals – Jackson 1, Berlinski 1, Colon 1, Crawford 1, Rhoades 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

VU – Smith 2, Timmermans 13, Halberg 11, Alfafara 8, Belmont 2, M. Drennnan 10, Goddard 9, Burns 7, A. Drennan 6, Beavor 3.

3-pt. goals – Goddard 3, A. Drennan 2, Alfafara 2, Halberg 1, Beavor 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – 33-20, VU.

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