On Monday night, seniors Alex Lowden and Justin Hemsley were celebrated for their contributions to Azusa Pacific basketball over the past few years.
In the final home game of the season, both the men’s and women’s basketball teams honored their graduating seniors.
Taking the court first was the women’s team, led by fifth-year senior, Alex Lowden.
During the game, Lowden walked away with three triples to give her 11 points, seven rebounds, and five assists to help the team to a 63-73 win on Senior Night.
“Obviously I wanted to win to end out in Felix on a good note, but it isn’t our last game of the season so there was not really any pressure. I was mostly just trying to have fun, enjoy it, and take it all in,” she shared after the game.
With the win, they also outright clinched the PacWest title and had the opportunity to cut the net at the conclusion of the game.
This would be their fifth conference title in eight years after going the whole season undefeated in the Felix Event Center with a perfect 11-0 home record and 22-4 overall record.
Despite this being Lowden’s final year in a Cougars uniform, she shared that she wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, and she felt like God had called her to APU for a reason.
“There are so many things that playing here at APU has taught me, such as how to be a good teammate and a leader, mental toughness and determination. It overall has taught me so many life and personal skills that not only have helped me grow as a person but as a Christian,” Lowden said. “I have met so many amazing people and made so many memories that I will cherish for a lifetime.”
Across her five-year span of playing for Coach Hardeman, Lowden never missed a game and helped her team to 111 wins, including two PacWest regular season championships, one PacWest Tournament title, and she was also able to make two trips to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
Winning Regionals twice was one of her favorite memories with the team but some of the things she said she’ll miss the most are her “teammates who have become some of my best friends and just the energy and adrenaline you have when you wake up on game day.”
Lowden made the most of her time at APU, collecting several accolades along the way. She was named 2021 PacWest Defender of the Year after finishing the season averaging a career-best 8.5 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 3.1 steals per game.
Although her 2023 campaign and final year of playing aren’t over just yet, she’s already collected 714 points, while also totaling 710 rebounds, 354 assists and 272 steals.
She’ll be missed by the team and APU as she pursues a career as a veterinarian.
Following the Cougars’ win over Hawaii Pacific, the men’s team celebrated Justin Hemsley as their lone senior as well.
Unfortunately, Hemsley got into foul trouble early against Hawaii Pacific during Monday night’s game, but he shared that it didn’t stop him from being in the moment.
“Personally, I was very frustrated … I wanted to play a complete game for those who came for me so I was slightly disappointed that it didn’t happen that way. However, there was a moment where I had to look outside of myself and realize how many people came to the game out of their own love for me. Once I was able to focus on how loved I am, it helped me not be so frustrated,” he said.
Hemsley finished the night with five points, but he had the game-winning assist, passing the ball to Hayden Gray in the last minute of the game to secure a team win for their final game at home this season.
After playing for the University of Hawaii, Hemsley joined APU’s team in the 2021 season and has been a huge contributor to the team’s success since then.
Over his past two seasons with the Cougars, he scored 582 points while grabbing 263 rebounds. He also made 76 triples across the past two seasons to help the team to 40 wins.
Although his time at APU has been short, he shared, “Looking back at these past 2 years, I can see how I have grown and matured. Playing for APU has built my confidence as a player and a leader. I am thankful for the people around me who have believed in me the whole time and for the deep care my team has for my well-being.”
Hemsley also said he’s gained several lessons in leadership that have shaped him into the player and person he is today.
Some of his favorite memories include going 3-0 on their Hawaii trip this past winter and also Midnight Madness, where APU students packed the Felix Event Center for a winter sports kickoff event. The event was once an APU tradition but had not been held since 2017. It was a step in the right direction for school spirit on campus and Hemsley is grateful to have been able to be a part of it.
In terms of the future, Hemsley shares, “I’m not 100% sure what life will present to me moving forward, but I do know that I plan to get married and continue running my business as Chief Financial Officer with my partner. If the opportunity is fitting for myself and my fiance, then I wouldn’t mind continuing to play basketball wherever it may be.”
The future is bright for Hemsley wherever it may lead him, but his time at APU isn’t over just yet. Although the team fell short of a PacWest title, they still have a chance to make a good run in the postseason.
Both teams will end regular season play with a final game against Concordia on Saturday before heading into the PacWest Tournament in Hawaii.
The women’s team clinched a one-seed while the men entered as the number two seed. The tournament will take place the first weekend of March, which Chaminade University will be hosting.
Congratulations to both graduating seniors — APU thanks you for your contributions over the past few years!