COSTA MESA, Calif. - Vanguard earned the right to play in the regionally televised Golden State Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Championship with its 78-55 win over sixth seed Biola University on Friday evening. All-GSAC senior forward Esther Timmermans (Melbourne, Australia) paced the Pride with 22 points and seven rebounds.
The lead changed hands twice in the game. The first switch occurred just 1:26 into the contest when Biola's Aubree Mittel (Simi Valley, Calif.) hit a 3-pointer to give the Eagles a one-point edge (3-2) and the second came just over a minute later when Timmermans stole it back for Vanguard with a lay-up.
Biola would bring the competition to even (6-6) at the 16:15 mark, but the Lions led the rest of the way behind excellent team chemistry and a hard-nosed defensive effort.
Vanguard held a nine-point (34-25) edge at the break and bested the Eagles 44-30 in the second half to secure the big 23-point win.
Junior point guard Nicole Ballestero (Orange, Calif.,), Vanguard's other All-GSAC player, had a productive night against the Eagles, posting fourteen points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds for the Blue and Gold. Senior Alison Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) followed suit with a well-rounded performance of her own, scoring eleven, grabbing five off of the glass and dishing out a game-high seven assists on the night.
Third year Taylor Belmont (Oregon City, Ore.) and senior Maree Drennan (Wheelers Hill, Australia) chipped in ten and eight points, respectively, and combined for nine boards. Belmont, the NAIA leader in assist-to-turnover ratio, also registered four assists in just 19 minutes of action.
Mittel, Abby Chapman (Arvada, Colo.) and Becca DeVere (Grass Valley, Calif.) managed double-digits with 12, 11 and 10 points for Biola. Adijat Adams (Inglewood, Calif.), the Eagles' all-conference nod, was one point shy of a double-double with nine points and eleven rebounds.
Vanguard was lights out from the charity stripe, knocking down 19-20 (95 %) of its free throws, but struggled from 3-point range, hitting just 1-8 (12.5 %) in the game. The Pride out-rebounded Biola 39-26 and forced 21 Eagles' turnovers in the win.
The Lions advance to face the only team to have defeated them twice during the regular season, the No. 1-seeded Warriors. Westmont bested the fourth-seed, San Diego Christian 62-47 to move into the championship match.
The GSAC Tournament Championship will take place at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif. on Tuesday, March 5th. The game will be aired live on Fox College Sports, beginning at 5:00pm.