Karl Terry, Freedom New Mexico Zias freshman Til-Lois Fifer (42) tries to get a shot past the defense of New Mexico Highlands’ Andrea Salas on Tuesday at Greyhound Arena. The Zias beat NMHU in the home opener.
By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Leading by 20 at halftime, Eastern New Mexico University’s women discovered they weren’t home free just yet.
New Mexico Highlands turned the tables in the second half and eventually pulled within three points late, but the Zias put together an 18-6 run in the closing minutes to finish off a 74-62 victory in their home opener at Greyhound Arena.
Freshman forward Til-Lois Fifer scored seven of her team-high 16 points in the run, including a couple of three-point plays that helped finally put the Cowgirls at bay.
Hitting 6-of-9 from 3-point distance, the Zias built a 45-25 halftime lead. Howeverm the Zias (1-2) cooled down considerably in the second half, going 2-of-17 from the field in the first 15 minutes as the Cowgirls (0-2) pulled within 54-51.
That’s when Fifer went to work.
“When I came in the last time, I was just thinking I have to give it all I have,” Fifer said. “I knew we’d come out with a win. I just didn’t want to disappoint anybody.”
Freshman guards Tori Northcutt and Patricia Malouff added 15 and 11 points, respectively, for ENMU.
Guard Jessica Armijo scored 20 points for Highlands, while guard Veronica Lerma and reserved Pasha Cornish added 12 apiece.
“It was a tale of two halves,” ENMU coach Linden Weese said. “I thought we played really well in the first half, then we struggled for seven or eight minutes. But I thought we finished pretty well.”
With a young team (12 freshmen), the Zias are likely in for some ups and downs as they try to develop some consistency.
“That’s what we’ve got to do,” Weese said. “We’ve got to stop the roller-coaster stuff and just put consistent minutes together.”
Fifer said it was nice to just have the lead at halftime, something the Zias didn’t do in their first two games.
“We played good the first half,” she said. “It was kind of a slow second half, but we got it together.”
The Cowgirls opened the game in a 2-3 zone, but ENMU shot them out of it in the first nine minutes, going 4-for-6 from 3-point range in building a 22-11 cushion.
ENMU harassed Highlands into 17 turnovers and limited the Cowgirls to 9-of-29 shooting from the field in the opening half. Meantime, the Zias were guilty of only four turnovers and converted nearly 50 percent from the field (15-of-31).
Tenorio kept NMHU within some striking distance for much of the half. She led all scorers with 11 points in the opening stanza, sinking 3-of-7 from 3-point range, but no one else had more than four points for the Cowgirls.
Meantime, the Zias used 15 players in the half, with 10 of them contributing to the scoring column. Freshman guards Samantha Matta and Malouff each had eight points for ENMU.