Zias ride balanced attack past Highlands

ENMU senior forward Elizabeth Richards drive past New Mexico Highlands junior Tamra Collazo for a layup in Tuesday’s game at Greyhound Arena. (CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks)

By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer

PORTALES — Linden Weese knows his Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team has work to do, but he believes the potential for good things is there.

The Zias bolted to a 19-point first-half lead, saw it shrink to five, and then pulled away late for a 74-50 victory over New Mexico Highlands on Tuesday night at Greyhound Arena.

ENMU improved to 2-0 heading into pair of weekend games in Canyon, Texas, including the Lone Star Conference South Division opener Saturday against West Texas A&M.

“It’s a good blend if we can just get the right ones out there at the same time,” said Weese, who came up victorious in his home debut as Zias coach. “I think it’s going to be a fun bunch to watch.”

Freshman Megan Kabrick of Portales went 4-of-5 from the field, including a couple of 3-pointers, and led the Zias with 14 points, while senior Elizabeth Richards added 13 and freshman guard Ashley Davis 10. All but three of the 14 Zias who saw action scored.

ENMU led 32-13 with five minutes left in the half after an 18-4 run, and still had a 14-point cushion at halftime. But the Cowgirls (0-2) held the Zias scoreless for more than four minutes to start the second half and eventually closed to 47-42 on a steal and layup by Delischa Utsey with 11:40 left.

Eastern scored the next seven points, including a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Lindsey Wood and a steal and layup by Davis, and the margin never was under double figures after that.

“We just kind of let up,” said Zia senior guard Heather Brown, who finished with nine points. “But we didn’t let them take the lead. We just need to execute better.

“We stopped talking on defense and we stopped getting back on defense.”

Weese pointed to solid contributions off the bench from Megan Ratliff, Wood and Davis. At times, he substituted an entire quintet.

“When we brought Lindsey and Ashley and Megan Ratliff in, those kids did a nice job,” he said. “They did the same thing the other night in a season-opening 64-57 win at Oklahoma Panhandle State.

For the Cowgirls, Utsey finished with 12 points and Deshawn Williams added 11, both off the bench. They also pulled down 15 rebounds between them.

Senior point guard Chelo McElrath of Clovis, one of two seniors on the Cowgirls’ roster, had eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers.

First-year Highlands coach Thomas Roberts said he relies heavily on McElrath’s floor leadership.

“She’s my foundation for this team,” he said. “I can count on her every night to go out and get after it.”

Roberts said his team played much better than in a blowout loss to Panhandle State last week, and in an exhibition loss to New Mexico State.

“We have so many young players who are learning to play together,” Roberts said. “We played a gazillion times better than the first two times out.”