Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Eastern senior guard Vanessa O’Neal reaches to the basket for two points Saturday during the second half. Abilene Christian beat the Zias 67-64.
The Eastern New Mexico University Zias made a couple of marks on the record book Saturday afternoon, but fell short on the scoreboard as Abilene Christian slipped out of Greyhound Arena with a 67-64 Lone Star Conference South Division win.
Zias senior Cat Clay moved into 10th place on the all-time scoring list for ENMU with 12 points, giving her 1,068 overall, while junior Precious Herrin dumped in a season-high 31 points and got a double-double with 10 rebounds.
But the effort wasn’t enough.
“I told the kids they played a great ballgame and they made it pretty easy for her (Herrin),” Zias coach Linden Weese said. “They did a good job of getting the ball inside to her. We just had some turnovers at key times and missed some wide-open looks.”
Freshman guard Mack Lankford made the difference for ACU with 25 points, including 6-of-14 from beyond the 3-point arc. For the season, she’s averaging 17 points.
“I feel lucky to get out of here with a win tonight,” ACU coach Shawna Lavender said. “They really did a good job of taking away anything inside. We didn’t get the production we normally get from our post players.”
Weese said protecting the paint wasn’t all that big of a concern going in, however.
“We were more concerned about their guard (Lankford),” he said. “She got 25, but she could’ve had 40 if we hadn’t done our job.”
The game was tight the entire way with 10 lead changes. The largest spread was an 8-point edge by the Wildcats midway through the second half.
Herrin gave the Zias a 52-50 lead with 7:25 left in the game as she pulled up for a fast-break jumper, but the Wildcats quickly moved to a 59-52 advantage on a 9-0 run supplied by senior Autumn Whitaker and Lankford.
Clay broke the run with a trey that moved her into 10th on the ENMU scoring list, and Herrin made it 59-57 with just over three minutes left. With 41 seconds left, Zias senior Vanessa O’Neal made it a one possession game with a free throw but ENMU was forced to foul and ACU sophomore Cecilee Perez went 3-for-4 from the line in the final 30 seconds to seal the win.
“I’m really proud of our effort,” Weese said. “I thought our kids played hard for a full 40 minutes.”
The Zias are in San Antonio Monday against Incarnate Word, then play at Texas A&M-Kingsville on Wednesday before wrapping up the season at home on Saturday against West Texas A&M.