Azusa Pacific University's women's basketball team will try to uphold the honor of the West in the NAIA tournament beginning Friday at Kansas City.
The Azusa Pacific women are seeded eighth in the 16-team tournament and have the second-best record at 30-4. Only top-ranked Francis Marion of South Carolina, with a 32-2 record, has more victories.
The Lady Cougars, however, will carry a certain stigma when they open the tournament against Wingate College of North Carolina (25-5) at 2:30 pm. Friday (PST). In the national tournament, teams from District III--which covers California and Nevada--have a 1-6 record. Azusa Pacific recorded the lone victory in 1981.
Azusa Pacific sports publicist Gary Pine said many NAIA tournament officials in Kansas City consider West Coast women's basketball inferior and were surprised when Azusa defeated Fort Lewis College last weekend in Durango, Colo., 63-61.
By the end of the game, even Azusa was surprised to have won. The game was tied at the half, 30-30, but the high altitude got to the Lady Cougars and Fort Lewis took a 59-49 lead with three minutes left.
But Azusa Coach Sue Hebel went to a full-court press and her team ran off a 14-0 streak. Fort Lewis didn't score again until the buzzer on a desperation 40-footer.
Guard Denise Duncan made four straight steals, and center Cindy DeYoung, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds, scored the basket that gave Azusa a 61-59 lead with 34 seconds left. She then made two free throws with four seconds left to clinch it.
DeYoung, Azusa's career scoring leader, is the team's only 6-footer. She combines with all-district guard Duncan and point guard Diane Grove for a strong inside-outside game, but Hebel said her team will depend on its defense, which ranks third in the NAIA.
"If we play the defense we can play, no one will stop us," Hebel said. "The last half of the year we've been playing great defense. I'll put our defense up against anyone's."
And in defense of West Coast basketball, Hebel said that her Lady Cougars do have something to prove. "The last time a District III team did anything was when we went to the tournament in 1981," she said. "Until we do something the (tournament) committee has nothing to go on. We just have to show 'em who Azusa is and how District III can play ball."
The NAIA women's tournament will open at Bartle Hall, then move to Kemper Arena for the final four.
Small College Notes
Sean Chambers of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Robert Jimerson of UC Riverside, both juniors, shared most valuable player honors on the All-CCAA basketball team. Ernie Wheeler of SLO was named Coach of the Year. Leone Patterson of Chapman repeated as women's MVP. Leslie Milke of Cal State Northridge was named women's coach of the year. . . . UC Riverside center Craig Fuller, who has overcome three major knee operations, broke his nose during the CCAA tournament. He continues to play. . . . Wrestlers Mark Tracey and Ernie Geronimo of Cal Poly SLO qualified for the Division I wrestling tournament this weekend in Iowa City. Tracey (36-4,) won the PCAA tournament title at 177 pounds and Geronimo (24-10-2) placed third at 126 and was chosen as a wild card. . . . Cal State Los Angeles swimmer Don Wetteland broke the school record in the 50-yard freestyle with a time of 21 seconds to qualify for this weekend's Division II national meet. It will be his second appearance at the national meet. . . . Wrestler Ken Lane of Biola won the 158-pound title of the National Catholic Collegiate Athletic Assn. tournament. Biola was edged by Maranatha, 61-60. . . . The UC Riverside baseball team had 27 home runs through the first weekend of March, well ahead of last year's record of 56. . . . Cal State Los Angeles center Tony Brown ranked seventh in the nation in field goal percentage with 62% and 14th in rebounding with 11 a game in final Division II statistics. . . . Cal State L.A.'s Lupe Quintana, a freshman, led the CCAA women in rebounding with a 12.5 conference average.