Zias hold on to beat Pioneers

FNM correspondent: Joshua Lucero ENMU junior guard Tara Johnson shoots over Texas Woman’s University Pioneers Tabbatha Thurmond, left, and Jessica Hanna, center, Wednesday night during the Zia’s game against the Texas Woman’s University Pioneers at Greyhound arena.

Dave Wagner

Eastern New Mexico University’s women had a little trouble finishing off Texas Woman’s Wednesday night at Greyhound Arena.

Unlike earlier in the season, though, the Zias are beginning to find ways to win.

Senior forward Precious Herrin scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds — including a huge offensive board in the final minute that allowed the Zias to run crucial time and claim a 62-59 Lone Star Conference win over the Pioneers.

Senior guard Kiara Tate, like Herrin coming off the bench, added 11 points for the Zias (7-13, 5-9 LSC), who finished off a 3-1 homestand and won consecutive games for the first time this season.

ENMU took the lead for good late in the first half and held it the rest of the way, building a 10-point cushion with just over eight minutes left and surviving some late turnovers.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to find ways to win, and that’s what we’re figuring out,” first-year Zias coach Lindsey Wilson said. “Winning two in a row is a big confidence-booster for our team.”

Herrin grabbed the rebound of a Tori Northcutt miss as the shot clock expired with just over 30 seconds left. Junior Tara Johnson missed a 1-and-1 free throw with 16 seconds to go, but for some reason the Pioneers (10-9, 5-8) settled for a pair of two-point shots — both missed — in the remaining time.

“I just had to go get it,” Herrin said of the late rebound. “It was clutch time and I had to go get the ball.

“We’ve come together as a team. That’s all coach (Wilson) has talked about. We come ready to play every day.”

Herrin, who leads the LSC in scoring and field goal percentage and went 9-of-13 from the floor in just 22 minutes, said she’s OK with her new-found role.

“I don’t know what it is, but I feel better playing off the bench,” she said. “I got some great passes tonight. Our guards see the floor so well.”

Northcutt added nine points, six rebounds and four assists.

The Zias are still eighth in the LSC, but are only one-half game behind the Pioneers and just one game back of sixth-place Incarnate Word (11-9, 6-8) as they try to move up in the seeding for the eight-team LSC postseason tournament.

The Pioneers fell to 1-7 this season in road games, got a solid game from junior guard Raquel Cuffie (17 points, six rebounds). Junior guard Brittney Nuzum added 13 points and senior guard Jessica Hanna had 11.

“I thought we missed a lot of easy layups and didn’t execute that well,” Pioneers coach Beth Jillson said. “But give credit to (the Zias); they made shots when they needed them.”