Zoe March and Abbigail Goodsell combine for 34 points as the Cougars pull out a victory in La Mirada

Courtesy of APU Sports Information

The second edition of Cornerstone Cup basketball shows just how intense the rivalry between Azusa Pacific and Biola can be. The two teams battled it out in front of the packed Chase Gymnasium in La Mirada, and the Cougars ultimately came away victorious with a final score of 68-65.

The first quarter began slowly, with neither team shooting well in the opening minutes. However, each team compiled a run within the quarter, and the Cougars took the lead midway through the quarter with a 10-0 run before Biola answered to close the quarter with a 9-0 run of their own.

The second quarter picked up right where the first left off, with the teams trading blows. Senior guard Abbigail Goodsell hit two big three-point shots to give Azusa Pacific some breathing room in the middle of the quarter.  However, Biola would not go away, and the Eagles claimed a short-lived lead soon after the Goodsell three’s. The teams continued to trade buckets, and headed into half time. The score was 31-28 with the Cougars in the lead.

While the stands were still filling during the first half, they were packed by the end of halftime as they headed into the third quarter.

Goodsell said that they felt right at home with the crowd noise in the second half.

“I love it. I love when we get crowds like this especially when it’s a rivalry game. For me, I feed off of it, and I think they are learning to feed off it too, and it’s just such an experience. It’s just awesome,” Goodsell said.

The Cougars hit the ground running in the third quarter, scoring on their first three possessions and extending their lead to seven points. The lead would climb up to 10 points by the end of the quarter. During this run, defensive stops and offensive rebounds were the keys to success for the Cougars, allowing them to take 72 shots compared to Biola’s 49.

With a 10-point lead in hand headed into the fourth quarter, the Cougars looked in control of the game. However, as was the theme of the night, the Eagles would not go away. Straight out of the gates, freshman Jazz Benn hit a three to cut into the lead. This was followed by another three-pointer by Sara Dougan. The Cougars’ lead was whittling away until the five-minute mark, when Dougan hit another three to put Biola ahead.

The teams traded baskets and the lead down the final stretch, Biola taking the lead by one with under a minute to go. Following a timeout with 14 seconds left, the Cougars needed an answer.

That answer came off a well-designed in-bound play that allowed sophomore guard Zoe March to drive to the basket for the go-ahead layup with 12 seconds left. The very next play, March forced a turnover which led to a Gabrielle Kaiser bucket to end the game.

“As I received the ball, in my head I thought ‘I’m just going for it. I’m going to either draw a foul or hopefully get a wide-open layup.’ As I turned around, I see that the basket is wide open, and in my head I’m thinking, ‘Is this a joke? Did we not start?’ March said. “So, I got the layup, and then the steal. That’s defense in the end. They could have come down and hit a half-court shot, but our team made sure we got a stop on defense and Gabby [Kaiser] finished with the layup at the end which just topped it off.”

Head Coach T.J. Hardeman noted how electric the atmosphere was and how the environment helped the team.

“It was awesome,” Hardeman said. “To be good you have to win those kinds of games in pressure situations where you don’t get every call, but you just don’t hang your head and keep playing. I was really proud of our girls tonight to continue to do that. We were comparing it to our earlier Dixie State loss where, we just didn’t shoot the ball well at all tonight, but earlier in the year we didn’t have a response, and here we continued to execute, continued to work hard and it was a great result.

Both Goodsell and March led the team with 17 points each on the night, helping the 18th-ranked Cougars propel to a 22-3 overall record.

The Cougars have a break until next Saturday, when they begin their final stretch of home games starting with Dominican University.