Freshman forward Laura Pranger breaks school record for blocks in a game

The Azusa Pacific Cougars seized the lead against the Chaminade Silverswords early in the game on Tuesday in the Felix Event Center. The Cougars grabbed a 9-0 in the first two minutes –– a lead they would not relinquish.

As the game progressed, APU only widened the gap, allowing head coach T.J. Hardeman to give his younger players some game time.

“We only have two seniors on the team, so the majority of that team will be back [next year]. The freshmen this year are getting good minutes and learning,” Hardeman said.

The Cougars communicated on the same wavelength for the entire game. Their press and defensive zone play effectively shut down Chaminade’s offense. APU scored 17 points from fast breaks alone. Freshman forward Laura Pranger broke the school’s record for the number of blocks in a game.

“I was just thinking about playing the game. My job is to protect the paint, so that’s what I was trying to do,” Prager said.

APU’s strong defense translated into an even more potent offense. Between swinging the ball, breaking the press and communicating on the court, the Cougars played in sync with each other.

APU’s passing and ball movement confused Chaminade’s defense, leaving them looking disorganized on the press and in the zone through the entire game. Junior guard Daylee Hanson attributed this to the players’ chemistry off the court.

“We’re really close off the court and that transitions to our closeness on the court,” Hanson said. “It didn’t really start off that way at the beginning of the season, but as we got to know each other better we just started to gel more and more.”

The Cougars ended the first half with a 46-28 lead.

For the majority of the second half, APU’s starters sat, giving the younger players more playing time. Although the offense slowed, the Cougars defense still throttled Chaminade’s offense. Chaminade seemed to lose heart, leading them to become more aggressive and foul APU players.

Although APU took their foot off the gas in the final quarter, the Cougars still ended with a solid 72-45 win.

“We were planning to win and we won … We have so many weapons offensively, I knew we would score points and we did,” Hardeman said. “This was a great learning spot for us.”

The Cougars’ next homestand game is on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 5:30 p.m. against Hawai’i Hilo.