COSTA MESA, Calif. – It didn't take long for junior transfer Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.) to score in her Lions' debut. In fact, it didn't take her long to drop 19, as she swiftly rattled off nearly half of the Lions' 39 points in the first half and finished with 29 against Point Loma in Thursday's Vanguard season opener. The Pride won the contest 81-52.
"I thought we had a great team win," Head Coach Russ Davis said. "Our bench played awesome and everybody contributed. Nicole got us going early and finished strong. Playing the exhibition games against Cal, Stanford and UCSB didn't feel like it was helping us at the time, but they sure helped us tonight. We played hard for 40 minutes and played with a lot of confidence."
No. 4 Vanguard, who defeated Point Loma Nazarene three times last season, took advantage of its lone opportunity to face the Sea Lions, who recently left the Golden State Athletic Conference to compete at the NCAA Division II level. Point Loma played the game as an exhibition.
After going down 2-0, Ballestero put Vanguard on the board and senior Chelsea Alfafara (Dana Point, Calif.) knocked down her first three-ball of the 2012-13 season to give the Pride an early lead in the contest (5-2). Shortly after, sharp-shooter Alfafara got another open look and nailed her second to give Vanguard an 8-7 edge.
Point Loma went up briefly at 9-8 but Vanguard broke it open following three straight buckets from Ballestero and a fast break layup from senior Taylor Belmont (Oregon City, Ore.).
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Ballestero and senior Alison Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) put VU up 24-16 at the 7:43 mark and freshman Maya Kennedy (Huntington Beach, Calif.) closed out the opening minutes with a pair from downtown to stretch the Lions' edge to 14 (37-23).
Ballestero finished the half with 19 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal as VU took a 16-point (39-23) lead into the locker room.
The Blue and Gold managed six from behind the arc in the half.
Alfarafa had the hot hand in the final 20 minutes, notching her third three-ball of the year and posting seven second-period points for Vanguard. The Sea Lions trailed by as many as 31 in the period and never got closer than 17.
Vanguard looked strong on the glass, outrebounding Point Loma 49-33. The Lions' 21 offensive boards led to 17 second-chance points in the game. Senior Esther Timmermans (Melbourne, Australia) grabbed a game-best seven rebounds for VU.
Point Loma committed 19 turnovers which VU converted to 26 points.
Freshman Lauren Martin (Torrance, Calif.) and Timmermans paced the Blue and Gold defense with three steals apiece. Four other players – Ballestero, Belmont, A. Drennan and senior Maree Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) - thieved two each, contributing to Vanguard's total of 15 takeaways in the match.
Ballestero dished a game-high five assists and Martin managed four in 15 minutes of play.
Alfafara and Timmermans finished with 13 and 10 points while Belmont and freshman Samantha Doucette (Irvine, Calif.) recorded eight and seven, respectively. Doucette and Belmont also garnered six boards individually in the win.
Nyla Bailey scored 21 for the Sea Lions.
The Pride are scheduled to host La Sierra on Saturday, November 10th at 7:30pm. Last season Vanguard defeated LSU 56-46 in The Pit.