By Jesse Wolfersberger: PNT staff writer
PORTALES — Senior night didn’t go exactly as Tiana Bryant would have liked. Then again, her entire season has been less than storybook.
Bryant, Eastern New Mexico University’s lone senior, was honored before the game for her productive career. However, it was Abilene Christian senior guard Ashley King who stole the show Saturday night.
King bombed her way to 27 points by going 6-of-10 from the arc and pulled down 12 rebounds to lead the Lady Wildcats past ENMU 85-76 on Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
Junior Heather Brown lead the Zias (10-16, 2-10) with 21 points and Bryant added 16 points and had four rebounds in her final home game, a notch off her season averages of 18.4 and 8.7. She said she would like the season to have turned out differently — the Zias have lost five players this season to injuries — but she is trying to make the best of it.
“When everyone got hurt it was a little disheartening,” Bryant said. “But that’s the set of cards we were dealt. That’s kind of been my motto this year. We played our cards and we played well.”
ENMU led 37-35 at the break, but the Lady Wildcats (11-14, 5-7) were in control for most of the second half, taking a nine-point lead into the final four minutes. The Zias pulled back to within four points when Bryant hit a 3-pointer to make it 75-71 with just under two minutes to play, but the Lady Wildcats hit key free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Abilene coach Shawna Lavender said her team was able to pull away by taking care of the ball.
“I think we were smarter with the ball in the second half,” Lavender said. “We had a lot of turnovers in the first half and that hurt us a lot.”
ENMU coach Dan Buzard said Abilene’s 6-foot-1 post Jamie Lord was a huge factor.
“We had trouble matching up inside with their big girl,” Buzard said. “Game to game, we’re going to be outsized against anyone we play. They’re a hard team to match up with because they have a bunch of shooters, and whenever they shoot it well, they can pound it inside.”
Lord scored 16 and pulled down seven rebounds.
Of the Zias’ injuries, four were to players 5-foot-10 or taller, leaving the 6-foot-1 Bryant as ENMU’s only true post.
“We’re outmanned and outsized a little bit,” Bryant said. “I mean, I’m our tallest player and I’m vastly undersized. I think that wore us down a little bit.”
The Zias were outrebounded 49-32 in the game.
Bryant said she knows her team will continue to play hard as they close out the season.
“This is a team that has a lot of heart,” Bryant said. “And coach would never let us quit, he’d never let that happen.