Erika Cook tries to pry a loose ball away from Texas Woman’s University guard Kelley Humphries in the first half of Thursday’s game at Greyhound Arena. (Freedom Newspapers: Kevin Wilson)
By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Tia Doss knew she’d deflected the ball near midcourt. She just couldn’t find it for a second.
The Eastern New Mexico University junior spotted it in time to grab it, drive for a tie-breaking layup and convert a three-point play with 1:04 left to give the sluggish Zias a 57-54 Lone Star Conference South Division win over Texas Woman’s Thursday night at Greyhound Arena.
Doss finished with a team-leading 17 points in just 21 minutes as ENMU (12-14, 6-7 South) followed up tough road wins last weekend against Texas A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State with a gritty finish against the Pioneers (10-15, 3-10).
“I had to (go for it),” said Doss, who went 7-for-12 from the field and had a team-high three steals. “I was really tired, too. I was just wanted it more; it felt like we were breaking down at the end.”
Doss will graduate in May, but has another year of eligibility left. She’s said she’s not sure what she’s going to do.
She’s missed most of two seasons with injuries at ENMU, and said last weekend’s road trip took a lot out of the Zias.
“Those two games were really hard,” she said. “We were just trying to get our legs back under us. Everyone’s playing hard, but (opponents) just know the plays and stuff.”
Junior Tiana Bryant added 14 points for the Zias, while sophomore guard Heather Brown added 13.
TWU broke on top with a 3-pointer by junior forward Ashley Browning with just over a minute gone, then went more than 4 1/2 minutes without scoring as the Zias ran off 12 points.
ENMU maintained a comfortable margin the rest of the half, leading 30-19 at the break. But both coaches knew the game wasn’t over.
“We took Sunday and Monday off (from practice) and went hard on Tuesday, and maybe that was a mistake,” acting ENMU women’s coach Dustin Klafka said. “We started the game tired; we missed shots, missed defensive assignments.
“But there’s a lot to be said for winning. It wasn’t pretty, but they gutted it up and found a way.”
TWU cut the lead to seven in the first minute of the second half. The Pioneers hit 10 of their first 15 shots after halftime to close to 45-42 midway through the period, but they couldn’t keep it going.
They tied the score twice, then took a 52-51 lead on a 3-point play by sophomore point guard Matalya McBath with 2:54 left. After Doss’ 3-point play, TWU had five shots on its final two possessions, including two 3-point tries by McBath, but came up empty.
“We’ve had about a five-minute stretch in a lot of games where we just don’t play well,” said TWU coach Devin Gabbard, whose team lost for the 12th time in 13 games.
“We just couldn’t get it going in the first half.
“I was very pleased with the effort, but our execution wasn’t very good.”
McBath matched Doss’ numbers for the Pioneers with 17 points and three steals.
“No. 10 was a problem for us tonight,” Klafka said of McBath. “She was a real tough matchup.”