By Kevin Wilson
A post-game conversation took an unusual turn in the corridors of Greyhound Arena Thursday night, with Abilene Christian coach Shawna Lavender apologizing to Zia coach Dan Buzard for winning.
It was the way the Wildcats won that prompted the apology, which followed an ending that left the Zias frustrated.
A late offensive foul on an inbound play gave visiting Abilene Christian second life, and Lynsie Blau capitalized with a baseline jumper that gave the Wildcats a 61-60 win over Eastern New Mexico in a Lone Star Conference South game at Greyhound Arena.
“You let the kids decide the game,” Buzard said. “That’s all I’m saying about the refereeing.”
The disputed call, a push on Eastern’s Laci Lee, came with 5.9 seconds remaining in the second half and nullified a second-half comeback from the Zias. Before the foul, ACU’s Melanie Carter came up short on a point-blank jumper and the Zias gained possession via a jump ball on the rebound.
“We weren’t going to let losing this game be an option,” Lavender said, “and when we got the call, I said, ‘There you go.
“‘You score or it’s over. You don’t have an option.’”
Blau, one of three double-figure scorers for ACU (11-6, 3-1 Lone Star Conference South) with 13 points, hit a 7-foot jumper from the left side. And 4.9 seconds later, it was over when a running jumper by Lee was long off the back of the rim.
Prior to that series, the game had been about a strong start from the Wildcats and a second-half rally from the Zias (9-9, 3-2).
Lee and Heather Brown, who scored 19 and 10 respectively, carried the Zia offense through a 13-2 run midway through the second half.
Meanwhile, the Eastern defense limited the inside-outside threat from Carter (15 points) and Ashley King (11 points) in the second half. King and Carter each had one of the Wildcats’ six first-half 3-pointers, helping ACU (11-6, 3-1) a 35-27 halftime lead.
“I thought our kids really played hard in the second half,” Buzard said, “and if we played that way in the first half, it wouldn’t have come down to that (call).”
After the Zias tied the score on a jumper by Loren Scarlett, the teams traded baskets for most of the final eight minutes. Scarlett hit a 3-pointer with 1:06 to go to tie it up at 59, then hit one of two free throws with 33 seconds left to give Eastern its final lead.
But in the end, 39:54 was overshadowed by the six seconds that followed.
Lee had mixed feelings about the late foul.
“Yes and no,” Lee said. “If you look at it, we had some shots we should have hit earlier in the game.
“I say no because with five seconds left, how is (the official) going to make a game-deciding call that isn’t there?”
The Zias don’t have much time to answer those questions, as they host Angelo State Saturday.