By Eric Norwood Jr.
CNJ staff writer
PORTALES — This one had to hurt.
Actually, it was a 3-pointer that hurt as the Eastern New Mexico University Zias lost their 11th consecutive game in heartbreaking fashion Thursday night at Greyhound Arena.
Western New Mexico junior guard RaTanya Newsome drained a long 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Lady Mustangs to 68-65 win.
The Zias (6-19), who close the season on Saturday at home against rival West Texas A&M, rallied from 12 points down in the second half and appeared to have sent the non-conference game into overtime on Jordyn Cooper’s 3-pointer with just under five seconds to go.
However, Newsome took the inbounds pass, sprinted up the court, and crushed the crowd with her buzzer-beater.
“After (Cooper) made that three, I was like, “Well, we’ve got to go to overtime,” WNMU coach Rusty Kennedy said. “Then Newsome brought it up and launched a 27-footer that answered our prayers.”
Newsome finished with 17 points for the Lady Mustangs (11-16).
With ENMU down 62-56 and under four minutes to play, junior wing and Portales native Tori Tucker made two free throws and a jumper to cut the deficit to two and fire up the crowd. Three Newsome free throws later, the Zias were down 65-60.
“It was hard to lose at the last second because we worked so hard the last 15 minutes to come back,” said Melrose freshman Cara Barnard, whose free throws with 11 seconds left made it 65-62.
After sophomore guard Cassidy Doherty of Melrose deflected the inbounds pass off a WNMU player and out of bounds, Cooper’s 3 sent Greyhound Arena into a frenzy.
“After that shot, I was thinking we had to get her (Newsome) stopped, and we did,” Zias coach Josh Prock said. “She pulls up from 35-40 feet out and makes a shot and, well, that happens.”
Tucker posted her fifth double-double of the season for the Zias (6-19), finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds while Barnard and Jaylyn Cooper both finished with 11.
It was a season-high for Barnard. Meantime, the Cooper twins shot a combined 6-of-13 from beyond the arc.
The Zias dug themselves an early hole with a sloppy first half that included 15 turnovers. They were outscored 15-2 off turnovers in the half and went into intermission trailing 33-28.
“The first half was frustrating, but the second half the girls came out and fought,” Prock said. “I told them I can sleep well tonight because we finished the game on an extremely high note.”
ENMU had trouble stopping 6-foot-1 junior post Stephanie Moore, who made seven of her first eight shots from the field in the first half and finished with 23 points for the Lady Mustangs.
WNMU got two 3-pointers in the first minutes of the game, but made just one more from beyond the arc after that until Newsome’s dagger.
The game was a makeup of a Nov. 25 weather-related postponement. The Zias, who had won the last three meetings, lost to the Lady Mustangs for the first time since 1996.