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AWC guard has big night in win over South Mountain
Jazmin Strane made the most of a rare chance to start, scoring 16 points, grabbing seven rebounds and coming up with three steals in Arizona Western's 70-61 win over South Mountain on Saturday.
Making a start in place of the injured Imari Lyons, the 6-foot-1 guard from Stockton, Calif., had one of her best games.
“I don't want to say starting made me play harder, but I do feel like it gave me a little boost of confidence to play and work my butt off,” Strane said. “I know I'm not going to start all the time, but I have to take that when I don't start and know I can do the same things I did tonight when I don't start.”
Arizona Western coach Patrick Cunningham said he expects big things of Strane, one of just three freshmen on the roster.
“She's capable, but it's one of those things when you're a freshman you battle inconsistencies,” Cunningham said. “When you mature, the inconsistency goes away. We're hoping the maturity level is starting to get there and she'll be a more consistent player.”
AWC (13-5 overall, 6-3 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) trailed 41-36 early in the second half but scored the next nine points to take control. The Cougars (11-7, 3-6) cut the lead to 59-56 with 2:22 left. Samantha Wallace made the first free- throw and missed the second, but Lisette Longomo came up with the steal, taking the ball away from Allison Gordon. With both teams in the double bonus, it was the last field goal of the game for either team.
“We matched them free- throw-wise as best we could,” said Cunningham, whose team made as many free-throws as South Mountain in five more attempts. “Sometimes you need to survive a free-throw contest, and I think tonight we did.”
Earlier in the year — and as recently as last Saturday after a blowout loss at home against Cochise — Cunningham said his team didn't battle in close games. He said he saw the opposite against the Cougars.
“We fought hard. We survived a lot of adversity with the fouls and early turnovers, and I was just impressed,” Cunningham said, “It was just a hard-fought win. We had Imari out and she's out most consistent guard, and it's one of those games you just have to grind it out.
“As things start to go the wrong way for us now, we kind of brush it off,” he said. “We respond in a positive way.”
Strane said she also thought the Matadors fought hard the entire game.
“At times we forget that because of bad calls or bad decisions made as a team,” Strane said. “Lately it's been a little low, but I think this game is going to be a turnaround.”
Emilie Muanandibu shot 7 of 9 from both the line and the floor for 21 points to lead the Matadors and also had a team-high nine rebounds. Wallace had 14 for the Matadors, Jacy Pagala had 15 and Longomo had five assists, six rebounds and four points in her fourth game back after missing 11 with an elbow injury.
“She's playing with a shoulder that's going to be surgically repaired at some point,” Cunningham said. “She has two straps that are pulling it down, and it's hard for her. ... She's starting to get a little more comfortable, and once we get everyone healthy hopefully that will be a good thing for us. Until then we need to keep grinding it out.”