Eastern New Mexico University junior Missy Kirkland releases a shot over Angelo State sophomore Kandra Lakey during the second half of Wednesday’s Lone Star Conference South Division matchup in Portales. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)
By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer
PORTALES — In a game that could have been another low point in a season of valleys, the Zias refused to quit and earned a win that, at least to one player, is the highlight of the year.
Held at arm’s length for most of the game against a team five spots ahead of them in the standings, the Eastern New Mexico University Zias forced overtime and got a win against the Angelo State Rambelles 71-65 on Wednesday at Greyhound Arena.
Senior Tiana Bryant scored a game high 27 points, including six in overtime, and pulled down nine boards for ENMU (10-15, 2-9 LSC South). Juniors Missy Kirkland and Heather Brown added 17 and 12, respectively.
Junior Megan LeJeune scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Rambelles (18-6, 9-2).
With 37 seconds left in the overtime, Kirkland hit a layup to put the Zias ahead 69-65 and seal the win.
Kirkland said she thinks the upset was the highlight of the season.
“For us to lose so many great people and to play with so many underclassmen… we definitely have a lot of heart,” Kirkland said.
Already down four players with season-ending knee injuries, sophomore guard Brittney Gillespie went down while playing defense and watched the rest of the game from the bench with ice on her right knee.
ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said the extent of Gillespie’s injury is unknown.
“’Not again’, that was about the only think I could think, ‘Not again,’” Buzard said. “It seems like it’s a continuous thing this year. You just pray for them and pray for all the ones we’ve had injured this year, just to get better and be well, not to play, just to get better for themselves.”
ENMU went into halftime down 39-30 but battled back and drew even in the final two minutes of regulation. With 12 seconds left in the second half, the Rambelles almost escaped with a win on a jumper and a put-back attempt, but the shot rimmed out as the buzzer sounded.
Buzard said, especially with the injuries, the season and Wednesday’s game are complete team efforts.
“I thought our kids deserved that,” Buzard said of the win. “We’ve been through a lot of strife this season, but our kids gutted it up. I’m just so proud of them, every one of them. It doesn’t matter if they didn’t get off the bench or only played for one second — they’re all a part of this team.”
Angelo State coach Sally Wallings Brooks only had one statement after the loss.
“We played like crap and that’s why we lost,” she said.
Buzard said, despite being so far down in the standings, getting motivated to play the Rambelles was not hard.
“Our girls don’t like Angelo State very much,” Buzard said. “They’re kind of the, I guess, pretty girls of the conference, as far as all the money they’ve got and everything like that.”
Kirkland warned not to count the Zias out when they play another team ahead of them in the standings, Abilene Christian, on Saturday.
“I’m ready to play Abilene and get another upset,” she said.