PORTALES — Ronnie Hearne was breathing a sigh of relief Wednesday night.
Hearne’s Tarleton State women’s basketball team led all the way against Eastern New Mexico University, but the TexAnns had to hold on late for a 68-63 Lone Star Conference South Division victory at Greyhound Arena.
In a first-half dominated by runs, Tarleton (10-8, 1-2 South) went on a 12-0 surge for a 15-2 lead after 5 1/2 minutes and essentially rode that to the decision.
“That was a hard-fought win,” Hearne said. “Eastern New Mexico plays as hard as anybody we’ve played this year.
“Thank goodness we got off to a good start. With eight freshmen, to get off to a good start really helped.”
Two of the first-year players, guards Shelby Adamson (16 points) and Lisa Parker (12), led the TexAnns in scoring. Sophomore guard Sonya Sundberg added 11.
The Zias, meantime, got 16 points from sophomore forward Til-Lois Fifer, 11 from freshman guard Karen Grant and 10 each from sophomore guards Tori Northcutt and Samantha Matta.
ENMU (9-11, 0-2) whittled a 13-point deficit to 62-59 on two free throws by Fifer with 4:22 left, but followed with four empty possessions. Fifer was called for a borderline charge on a possible three-point play with 3:18 left, then Fifer and Cat Clay missed 3-pointers to tie and Matta was off on a 15-foot jumper.
Parker scored four points and Adamson added two free throws in the final 1:12 to seal the win.
“We dug too big a hole early to get ourselves out of,” Zias coach Linden Weese said. “We finally decided we could compete with them, but we just could never get over the hump.
“We can’t put two halves together. We just got off to a slow start tonight.”
Weese said the Zias were concerned Tarleton’s two top scorers, senior guard D’Anna Dingler and junior center JoAnne Jones. They held those two to a combined 11 points on 3-of-13 shooting.
“They had kids who stepped up,” Weese said. “If you hold Dingle and Jones to 11 points, you’ve got to like your chances.”
After falling behind early, ENMU put together runs of 9-0 and 10-0, but those were offset by TexAnns surges of 11-2 and 8-2 and Tarleton led 34-25 at halftime.
“They’re a good shooting team, but I thought for the most part we guarded them pretty well,” Hearne said. “Our problem this year is we haven’t been able to finish (off games), but we did tonight.”
Tarleton dominated the Zias 44-28 on the boards, including 19 offensive rebounds. That allowed the TexAnns 14 more shots from the field.