RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Junior Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.) propelled No. 3 Vanguard past Southwest Baptist (Mo.) (5-3) with a 30-point performance on Monday evening. The Lions defeated the NCAA Division II Bearcats 66-63 in the Ayres Inn & Suites Lancer Classic and remain unbeaten at 6-0 on the year.
Ballestero also tacked seven rebounds, three assists and two steals onto her stat line. Through six games, Ballestero ranks second in the NAIA in scoring average (21.8 ppg), and first among Golden State Athletic Conference players.
Vanguard led for the majority of the opening half, but Southwest Baptist kept it close throughout, and took several leads of its own in the period before retiring to the locker room down by four (30-26) at the break.
The Pride quickly built its lead to 10 points in the second and held a 13-point (50-37) advantage at the 10:16 mark following a made jumper by Ballestero. Southwest Baptist chipped away at the Lions' lead for the remainder of the game but in the end fell short of the comeback as the Bearcats' Brittney Dukes could not connect on a her last second 3-point attempt to tie at the buzzer.
Southwest Baptist held a large advantage in the rebound category (50-33) but could not handle the Lions' pressure defense which forced 17 turnovers.
Seniors Esther Timmermans (Melbourne, Australia) and Maree Drennan recorded 12 and 11 points, respectively, in the contest. Timmermans managed a game-high four assists while M. Drennan and senior Chelsea Alfafara (Dana Point, Calif.) chipped in two apiece for the Lions. Alfafara scored eight points in the win.
The Blue and Gold continue on Tuesday, December 18th against Truman State (7-1), who defeated tournament host Cal Baptist 73-67 on Monday evening. The game is scheduled for 5:00pm.