Zias notch first victory

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Zias sophomore guard Tara Johnson, left, dribbles past New Mexico Highlands sophomore point guard Whitley Coca on Saturday at Greyhound Arena. The Zia beat New Mexico Highlands 73-62.

Clarence Plank

PORTALES — Junior forward Precious Herrin scored 26 points and Eastern New Mexico University’s women pulled away late to beat New Mexico Highlands 73-62 on Saturday at Greyhound Arena.

Junior guard Kiara Tate added 12 points as the Zias (1-2) broke into the win column. Senior forward Briana Gholston led the Cowgirls (2-3) with 18 points.

Zias coach Linden Weese said after playing in spurts early and trailing 30-26 at the half, the Zias warmed up from the floor. They shot 56 percent (15-of-27) in the final 20 minutes and also knocked down 14-of-18 free throws.

“Our chances were a lot better in the second half than in the first, and that was my fault,” Weese said. “We were going to play them in a halfcourrt set to see if they could make some of their shots, and they did.”

Weese said his team’s focus was to hold Highlands to 60 points.

“When Precious started making shots, that made them change their defense,” Weese said. “It allowed others to get some open shots, and that’s something we really worked hard on in practice.”

Senior Til-Lois Fifer scored 10 points off the bench for the Zias, including 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

“We played the first half a little sloppy,” Fifer said. “Our offense was able to move around to where we were able to find shots.”

Sophomore guard Krista Ford also had 10 points for the Zias. Senior Cat Clay added nine points and team-highs of 11 rebounds and six assists.

The Cowgirls got 13 points off the bench from Domonique Rivera and 12 from sophomore point guard Whitley Coca.

“Obviously, if they are making as many free throws (22-for-28) as we’ve attempted (13-for-22), it’s hard to stay in the game,” NMHU coach Tiffany Darling said. “I felt that the foul count was lopsided from the beginning, but we’re a young group and we only have one senior. Our girls have just got to learn to be tough and play through that contact.”

The Zias travel to Las Vegas. N.M.. on Monday for a 5 p.m. rematch against the Cowgirls.