The Cougars extended their win streak to 13 games after Fresno Pacific missed a buzzer beater in the final seconds

In what could go down as one of the most exciting games of the season for APU women’s basketball team, the Cougars held on to beat Fresno Pacific (FPU) 81-80. The Cougars hosted the Sunbirds at the Felix Event Center on Thursday, Jan. 24. From tip-off, it was clear FPU wasn’t going to let the cougars walk away with an easy win.

When the game started, both teams came out playing aggressively. The Cougars utilized their height advantage in a full-court press while FPU took advantage of their speed and long passes to move the ball up the court. In the first few minutes of the first quarter, both teams traded scores, but eventually, the Cougars were able to break out and start building a comfortable lead. APU also stepped up their defensive efforts, which were led by sophomore forward Laura Pranger, who had three blocks in the first quarter alone.

As the game headed into the second period the Cougars continued to expand their lead. Junior guard Savanna Hanson ended the quarter with 15 points. Hanson was followed by junior guards Rachel Bozlee and Daylee Hanson, each with seven points.

In the final seconds of the first half, Pranger scored a buzzer-beater, but after, the referees took the basket away because of a three-second violation. Despite the Cougars’ solid lead during the first half, it never felt as if FPU was out of the game.

After halftime, both teams came out with lots of energy, continuing the fast-moving pace of play. However, poor passes and shots by the Cougars created turnovers and baskets for the Sunbirds. This helped build their momentum, allowing them to close in on the lead.

Coming into the final quarter, APU held an 11 point lead over FPU, by a score of 64-53. Although diminished, it seemed like APU would hold onto their lead. However, the Sunbirds had other plans.

One of the Cougars’ best players, Daylee Hanson, fouled out of the game at 2:47. As APU continued to rack up fouls, FPU continued to knock down their free throws and chisel away at the lead.

In the last minute of the game, senior forward Samantha Huddleston fouled FPU guard Ashley Cross. She scored both of her free throws, cutting the lead to 81-78 with 39.5 seconds left on the clock. The Cougars wasted as much game clock as they could, giving FPU just 11.1 seconds to shoot. FPU guard Jessica Malazarte was able to get open but missed her three-point shot. However, the ball went out of bounds off an APU player, giving FPU another chance with 4.5 seconds left. The Sunbirds settled for a two-point basket, leaving them trailing by just a point.

With 1.2 seconds left on the clock, it looked as if the game was over. However, a Sunbird player tipped the ball, bouncing off a Cougar player before going out of bounds, giving them one final chance. For the final play of the game, FPU’s Malazarte chucked a shot from past the half-court line which fell in after several long bounces.

While Sunbird fans were quick to celebrate, they failed to notice a referee who had declared the shot to be no-good since it came after the final buzzer. The referees quickly got together and determined the call: the shot did not count, giving APU the win.

While the game was closer than the Cougars would have preferred, they were still able to walk away with a victory, extending their win streak to 13 games. Head Coach T.J. Hardeman commented after the game on the play of the Cougars and their opponents.

“They [FPU] played great and they exploited a lot of our weaknesses,” Hardeman said. “I was just pleased that our girls didn’t back away from anything and said ‘Okay, everything’s not going our way but we’ll still play hard and still go to our strengths.”

The Cougars next game is on Jan. 28 against Chaminade.