Women's Basketball: Transfer keys Vanguard victory

COSTA MESA — In a truly convincing bit of coincidence Thursday night, Vanguard University junior transfer Nicole Ballestero proved that San Diego's loss was, well, a loss for San Diego.

Ballestero, who played the last two seasons at the University of San Diego, scored a collegiate high 29 points to help the Lions thump San Diego-based Point Loma Nazarene, 82-51, in the nonconference women's basketball season opener for both at the Pit.

Ballestero, who scored 58 points last season in 26 reserve appearances, made 12 of her first 15 field-goal attempts for her most productive offensive performance since she was a four-time All-CIF Southern Section performer at Villa Park High.

The 5-foot-8 point guard, who had 95 points in two seasons with the Toreros, also chipped in a team-high five assists, while adding four rebounds, two steals and no turnovers in 32 minutes.

"Obviously [Ballestero] is pretty dang good," said Vanguard Coach Russ Davis, who kept his winning streak in season openers perfect with his 17th victory at the Lions' helm. "She is going to help us."

Ballestero, who at one point made 12 of 13 field-goal tries, including eight straight spread evenly between the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, was all smiles afterward.

"It just felt really good to play and to be back out there," said Ballestero, who nearly chose Vanguard out of high school. "Coach Davis was one of the last coaches I talked to [before joining USD and the West Coast Conference]. But after last season, I just knew that I wasn't as happy as I could be, so the first person I called was [Davis]. I knew I wanted to come here and there really was no question after that."

The Sea Lions, who left the Golden State Athletic Conference and the NAIA ranks this season for NCAA Division II, had few answers for their former GSAC rivals.

The hosts, who were hardened by exhibition losses at Cal, Stanford and UC Santa Barbara, used a 10-0 run to turn an 9-8 deficit into a lead they would not relinquish.

The Lions made six of 11 three-point attempts on their way to a 39-23 halftime lead, then scored the first six points of the second half to strengthen their command. The lead surged to as many as 31, as senior starters Chelsea Alfafara (13 points) and Esther Timmermans (10) joined Ballestero in double figures.

Timmermans, a returning All-GSAC performer, had a team-best seven rebounds and shared the team lead in steals with three.

Alfafara made three three-pointers to lead the winners in that department and added four rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Vanguard, coming off a 23-7 campaign that ended in the first round of the NAIA Tournament, finished 32 of 75 from the field (42.7%) and posted a 49-33 rebounding advantage, despite the presence of 6-3 Sea Lions senior Nyla Bailey (21 points and seven rebounds), who was a third-team NAIA All-American as a junior.

Vanguard forced 19 turnovers, while committing nine and impressed Davis with its intensity.

"I was really happy with the effort," said Davis, who also had praise for a bench that included strong showings from junior Taylor Belmont, as well as freshmen Samantha Doucette, Maya Kennedy and Lauren Martin.

"I think when you're playing [NCAA Division I teams, against which the Lions shot a mere 29.7% from the field and were outrebounded by an average of more than 15 per game], it doesn't feel good," Davis said. "But when you get back into your schedule, now it feels good."

Belmont chipped in eight points, six rebounds and two steals in 15 minutes, while Doucette had seven points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.

Kennedy hit her only two shots, both three-pointers, and added two rebounds in 14 minutes, while Martin provided energy to go along with her four assists and two points in 15 minutes.

"I think we showed we can go deep on our bench," said Davis, who rested sophomore Jordie Smith due to a back problem.



Vanguard 81, Point Loma Nazarene 52

PLN – Bailey 21, Boorman 5, Erskine 11, Escorza 4, Rhoads 3, Kloppenburg 6, Anderson 2.

3-pt. goals – Erskine 3, Kloppenburg 2, Rhoads 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

VU – Timmermans 10, M. Drennan 0, Ballestero 29, Alfafara 13, A. Drennan 4, Belmont 8, Doucette 7, Kennedy 6, Bednar 2, Martin 2.

3-pt. goals – Alfafara 3, Ballestero 2, Kennedy 2, A. Drennan 1, Doucette 1.

Fouled out – None.

Halftime – VU, 81-52.


Twitter: @BarryFaulkner5

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