By Dave Wagner, Freedom New Mexico
It won’t be a long break, but sophomore forward Til-Lois Fifer and the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team are ready for a little time off.
The Zias completed the early portion of their schedule Wednesday night with a 79-64 victory over New Mexico Highlands at Greyhound Arena, and take a 7-5 record into a short holiday layoff.
Fifer, who scored a career-high 19 points in a win over East Central on Sunday, finished with 18 points and a career-best 15 rebounds against the Cowgirls (1-8).
“I think we’re all ready for the break, but it’s good to get a win before you go into it,” Fifer said.
Fifer scored the Zias’ first five points, including a spectacular tip-in that put them up for good 5-3. Sophomore guard Cat Clay added 14 points and eight rebounds, sophomore post Kara Bible had 10 points and nine rebounds and freshman post Celeste Belizario came off the bench for 10 points for ENMU.
The Zias outscored Highlands 98-84 in mid-November at Las Vegas, N.M., but both teams played tougher defense this time.
“Fifer was impressive,” said first-year NMHU coach Tiffany Darling, whose squad beat Oklahoma Panhandle State on Tuesday night to end a 17-game losing streak dating to last season. “She attacked the boards.
“We came into this thinking if we took care of their perimeter people, we’d have a pretty good shot. But their bigs ate us alive.”
ENMU outrebounded the Cowgirls 55-37.
“We knew we had to keep (certain) people from shooting the 3 and get on the boards,” Fifer said. “Our team is best when we execute and get on the boards. We didn’t come in thinking this would be the same team we played at the beginning of the season.”
The Cowgirls took their only lead at 3-2 on a 3-pointer by junior guard Jessica Armijo. They went to fullcourt pressure late trying to mount a comeback, but never got closer than 12 in the final eight minutes.
“I think it was a good overall team effort,” Zias coach Linden Weese said. “Eighteen and 15, that’s a good night in anyone’s book.
“Belizario came off the bench and did a nice job. Defensively, I thought we did a pretty good job for the most part.”
The Zias have played the past three games without starting guards Samantha Matta (back) and Lace Clark (knee). Weese is hoping to get them back when the team returns to practice on Dec. 27.
Junior guard Oliana Seanoa scored 23 points for the Cowgirls, but was held to 7-of-23 from the field. Sophomore post Desiree Valentine, who did not play in the earlier meeting, added 17 points and eight rebounds off the bench while Armijo finished with 14.
The Zias’ next games are Dec. 30 against St. Mary’s and Dec. 31 against Texas A&M-International, both in San Antonio.