Women's Basketball: Lions hotter than Firestorm

For the third time this season, the Vanguard University women's basketball team turned the Firestorm into fizzle.

After having beaten Arizona Christian by 31 and 63 points, respectively, the No. 1-ranked and No. 1-seeded Lions dispatched the visitors from Phoenix, 100-51, in the quarterfinals of the Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament on Wednesday at Vanguard.

Vanguard showed complacency was not much of a concern by making 11 of its first 14 field-goal tries to seize a 28-6 advantage just 6:32 into the contest.

The lead was 36-10 when Arizona Christian (5-24), which went 0-14 in regular-season GSAC play, scored five straight points. But Vanguard (26-0), which came in having averaged a 28-point victory margin this season, closed out the half on an 18-6 run to claim a 54-21 halftime advantage.

The victory moves the GSAC regular-season champions into Friday's semifinals against Hope International at Vanguard at 7:30 p.m.

Hope International (22-9), which topped visiting Biola, 77-65, in Wednesday, gave Vanguard its biggest scare this season, falling, 80-79, on Feb. 22 in Fullerton.

"That's a tough matchup for us, so we're looking forward to that," Davis said of the semifinal clash. "We had a great game against [the Royals] last time. They definitely are not intimidated by us. They are coming in here thinking they have a chance to win."

Such was not the case for the Firestorm, which scored 30 second-half points to keep the final margin (49) to only the fourth-most-lopsided whooping the Lions had administered this season.

The Lions shot 69.6% from the field after halftime (16 for 23) to finish at 58.2% for the game and they had 26 assists on 32 total field goals, while helping force 27 Arizona Christian turnovers.

Vanguard also amassed a 37-20 rebounding edge and made nine of 20 three-point attempts.

Sophomore Samantha Doucette, a first-team All-GSAC performer, scored eight of the Lions' first 12 points on her way to a game-high 21. She was eight for 12 from the field and also had a team-best eight rebounds.

Senior guard Taylor Belmont, another member of the 10-player All-GSAC squad, had 19 points, 10 assists and a team-leading four steals. It was her 12th double-double of the season. She was 10 for 10 from the foul line, where Vanguard made 27 of 34, well more than the 11-for-18 effort from the visitors.

Senior Nicole Ballestero, the GSAC Player of the Year who could capture the same honor in the NAIA, had 10 points, six assists and three steals, while junior Ashleigh Anderson had 13 points and three steals.

Freshman Ashley Land came off the bench to score 13, making all five of her field-goal tries, including all three from threedom in 13 minutes.

Junior Melissa Norman (eight points and three rebounds in 10 minutes) and sophomore Jordie Smith (seven points and five rebounds in 17 minutes) also stood out off the bench for the winners.

Davis singled out the play of Land, Smith and Norman, but the GSAC Coach of the Year was in no mood to go overboard with plaudits for his players.

"I thought we had some good moments, which got us a big lead," Davis said. "But I thought we also lost focus and had way too many turnovers (15) tonight. Our last game, we had four turnovers. And when you've done what we've done, we've got to play like we're capable of playing."

Regardless what happens in the conference tournament, the Lions will make their 16th trip to the NAIA Tournament in 18 seasons under Davis. If Vanguard can get past Hope in the semifinals, the title game would be held at Vanguard on Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament


Vanguard 100, Arizona Christian 51

ACU – Hock 6, Royston 6, Ham 5, Brimhall 12, Branham 11, Showers 9, White 2.

3-pt. goals – Branham 2, Showers 1, Royston 1.

Fouled out – Brimhall, Royston.

Technicals – None.

Vanguard – Bednar 2, Doucette 21, Belmont 19, Anderson 13, Ballestero 10, Land 13, Norman 8, Smith 7, Zugasti 3, Martin 2, Goff 2.

3-pt. goals – Land 3, Anderson 2, Ballestero 2, Belmont 1, Smith 1.

Fouled out – None.

Technicals – None.

Halftime – VU, 54-21.

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