The Cougars offense went off on senior night, led by the Hanson sisters
Azusa Pacific’s women’s basketball squad took on the Academy of Art (Art) on Thursday night, defeating the Urban Knights 92-62 on APU’s senior night. The Cougars were on fire from behind the arc, hitting 16 three-pointers on the night, while their defense stifled Art to the tune of a 32.9 shooting percentage.
APU got off to a hot start, going on eight and nine point runs to start the first quarter. Senior guard Savanna Hanson led the Cougars with three triples in the first five minutes. Then freshman forward Molly Whitmore went on a tear, hitting three straight baskets for the Cougars. At the end of the quarter, APU led 30-16, shooting 54.5 percent.
“I’ve been warming up well and getting in tempo so in the game I can be relaxed when I shoot,” Savanna Hanson said. “ My teammates found me a lot and their [Art’s] zone was kind of sagged down, so we had a lot of open looks at threes.”
The Cougars quickly added to their lead in the second quarter, including two more triples from Savanna Hanson. However, for a few minutes, both teams struggled to find the basket. The Cougars and Urban Knights played tough defense, fouling each other six times in the closing minutes.
By the end of the quarter, APU increased their lead to 23 points at 47-24. While the Cougars only scored 17 points, their defense suffocated the Urban Knights, allowing only eight points on a dismal 11.1 percent shooting.
“Our communication was a lot better this game,” said senior guard Daylee Hanson. “Our scouting was on it this game, whereas last time they had a couple girls that just went off. This game we really focused on that.”
The Urban Knights entered the second half determined to score more points, which they were able to, scoring 12 points in the first four minutes of the third quarter. Meanwhile, the Cougars struggled to make shots in the quarter, only hitting on 25.0 percent.
While their offense struggled, Daylee Hanson made the most of her opportunities from the charity stripe, making all six free throws in the quarter. She ended the game with 10 free throws made on 10 opportunities, a perfect 100 percent shooting and an APU record.
“I’ve been off free throws for the past few games, so it was just in my head to focus on that,” Daylee Hanson said.
The Cougars entered the final quarter up 67-43. They continued to increase their lead off a pair of layups from senior guard Zoe March and three more triples from Savanna Hanson. When the game was down to the final two minutes, head coach T.J. Hardeman sent in the reserves as the starters exited to thunderous applause. APU scored one last basket before the buzzer, ending with a 92-62 win.
Both Hanson sisters had big nights in their final regular season home game as Cougars. Savanna Hanson led the team with 26 points, including eight triples on the night. Daylee Hanson also had a stellar performance with 16 points, three steals, six assists, and a team leading 11 rebounds.
“It was really special. The win felt good, just the way we all played together and set each other up,” Daylee Hanson said. “I’ll miss playing with my sister for sure. Not many people get to do that.”
The Hansons were joined by three other seniors — March, Rachel Bozlee and Cierra Roufosse — after the game and presented with flowers. The group led APU to the NCAA Division II postseason tournament two consecutive years, including an Elite Eight appearance last year.
“Every one of them has had a huge impact. It’s the biggest loss we’ve ever had to lose that whole group,” Hardeman said. “They’re phenomenal. You cannot replace that group. You’ve just got to rebuild and do something else. It was special to see them work together.”
Although Hardeman is sad to lose the five seniors, he knows this is not the end for the Cougars.
“This was a nice win, but we’re not done,” Hardeman said. “There’s other things to happen and we’re excited for those.”