ENMU’s Rochelle Vance passes the ball to the perimeter in Saturday’s Lone Star Conference South Division game against Texas A&M-Kingsville at Greyhound Arena. (CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle)
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Slowly but surely, the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team is creeping toward Lone Star Conference postseason tournament consideration.
Despite leading all the way Saturday night, the Zias struggled mightily before holding off Texas A&M-Kingsville 58-48 at Greyhound Arena for their third consecutive South Division victory.
Senior guard Heather Brown hit six 3-pointers for 18 points and senior forward Elizabeth Richards posted her 12th double-double of the season — and eighth in the last 11 games — with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
After an 0-7 division start, the Zias (12-10, 3-7 South) are now two games behind Angelo State and Abilene Christian, tied for third, and one game behind Midwestern State and Texas Woman’s with four games to go.
“We have another shot at these teams,” Brown said. “This time, we have (all but Angelo) at home. I don’t think they really want to come out here.”
ENMU also got a solid contribution from its bench, which outscored the Javelinas’ reserves 19-0 with guards Ashley Davis and Missy Kirkland each contributing six points and Roni Gomez five.
“The kids who came off the bench did a nice job,” ENMU women’s coach Linden Weese said. “Roni Gomez probably had the best game she’s played all year.”
Both Brown (knee) and Kirkland (ankle) came out with injuries in the first half, but both toughed it out and returned.
“It was a game where we just had to play through the injuries,” Brown said. “We just needed to play strong.”
Senior Riikka Lehtonen scored 13 seconds into the game, and ENMU never relinquished the lead. Brown’s 3-pointer capped a 7-0 run in the final minute of the half to make it 31-23 and the Zias overcame a slow start in the second half.
Kingsville (8-15, 3-7) scored the first six points of the second half before Brown’s 3-pointer with 16:16 left gave the Zias a 34-29 advantage.
Gomez hit a 3-pointer and she and Kirkland added two free throws each to extend the margin to seven before Brown’s fifth 3-pointer gave ENMU its biggest lead to that point (52-42) with three minutes left.
Lehtonen scored eight points in the first 8 1/2 minutes, but was blanked after that.
“They had everything tied up inside,” Weese said of the Javs. “They weren’t going to let Elizabeth and Riikka beat them.”
Junior forward Lana Toki shot 8-for-12 from the field and finished with 18 points for the Javs. Senior forward Angela Trotter added 13 and junior guard Ali Scott 10.