By Dave Wagner
CMI sports writer
The Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team was on track to start the season the way they did a year ago, and Lakeeyscia Griffin wanted no part of that.
Griffin was one of five Zias in double figures and narrowly missed a double-double on Saturday as ENMU turned back also-winless Oklahoma Panhandle State 73-66 at Greyhound Arena.
Last season, the Zias got off to an 0-10 start before going 7-12 the rest of the way, including impressive home wins over Lone Star Conference powers Midwestern State and Abilene Christian.
Griffin, the Zias’ point guard, contributed 12 points and nine assists as ENMU won for the first time this season in six games, leading the entire contest but never quite putting the Aggies (0-7) away until the final moments.
“It was nerve-wracking, but I’m glad we were able to stop their runs,” said Griffin, a junior from El Paso who was a starter on last year’s squad. “The big thing is we just need to mature a little bit, and if we do I think we’ll be OK.
“At least we won’t have to wait until Christmas to get a win. It feels good to be (playing) at home.”
Texico sophomore Jaylyn Cooper opened the scoring with a 3-pointer in the first minute and, other than a 6-4 margin, the lead was never under three points. At the same time, ENMU could never get beyond an 11-point advantage.
Jordyn Cooper, Jaylyn’s twin, led the Zias with 13 points, while junior post Jasmine Johnson added 12. Jaylyn Cooper and sophomore post Nelsha Peterson each tallied 11 points, and Peterson had a double-double with a game-high 10 rebounds.
“The girls played extremely hard today,” first-year Zias coach Joshua Prock said. “They made mistakes, but they fought through it. This is a new system for these kids. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m proud of where we are today.”
Both teams shot above 50 percent in the first half, but the Zias forced 14 turnovers and limited OPSU to 18 attempts in building a 42-32 lead. The teams cooled off in the second half, but ENMU was always able to keep the Aggies at arm’s length.
“I never felt like we were in jeopardy of losing the game, but you’ve got to give them credit,” Prock said. “They played better defense against us in the second half.”
Senior center Sharice Papaleo led all scorers with 17 points for the Aggies. Senior point guard and Muleshoe High grad Sarah Johnson added 10 points, all coming from the free throw line.
Understandably, it was a game both sides desperately wanted. OPSU’s losing streak reached 17 games dating to a 66-62 win over Arkansas-Fort Smith last January.
“Both teams really played hard,” second-year Aggies coach Charles Terry said. “We shot ourselves in the foot at times by not executing.
“You have to make your breaks to a certain extent. It comes down to they made shots when they had to and we didn’t.”