Cougars defeat West Hills Lemoore by six

Erica Evans poured in 33 points – 22 in the first half – and Angie Banks calmly dropped in five clutch free throws in the waning moments Saturday to ease Taft College to an 83-77 victory over West Hills-Lemoore.

The Central Valley Conference win avenged a 64-56 loss in Lemoore a month ago.  Evans missed that one with a hand injury but made up for that absence this time.

The Cougars almost frittered away a 19-point (49-30) halftime lead.

The Golden Eagles slowly chipped away at the deficit until they pulled to within three (80-77) with 22 seconds after taking advantage of two Cougar turnovers within three seconds.

Banks made one of two free throws two seconds later to give the Cougars a four-point cushion, then sealed the deal with a pair with 11 ticks left.

Evans and Banks were especially deadly at the line.  Evans made 15 of 16 while Banks, who finished with 15 points, was 9 of 10.
“Angie made some key free throws when we really needed them,” said head coach Tyrone Taylor. 

He wasn’t happy his team squandered such a big halftime lead.

“We played a great first half,” he said, “then we got a little careless.”

Fortunately, West Hills was unable to take advantage of those two late turnovers.

TC led 78-71 with a minute and a half left, missed two free throws, then threw away an inbound pass that Golden Eagle leading scorer Kalia Parker (25 points) grabbed and laid in. 

The Cougars quickly inbounded, again threw it away but West Hills missed a shot that Banks rebounded and was fouled.  That set up her 5-of-6 finish at the line that saved the Cougars.

The Cougars played a solid first half, dominating all phases of the game.

They made 18 field goals and 12-of-13 free throws.

By contrast, they made just eight field goals in the second half, but offset that weak shooting with 16-of-23 from the line.  Evans and Banks accounted for 15-of-17.

“With just eight players we got a little winded in the second half,” said Taylor, “but we held on a little longer and finished.  We’ll take our wins any way we can get them.”

Evans scored the first 7 points of the game and the Cougars never looked back until the halftime buzzer.  A three-second violation kept them from pushing their lead to more than 20.

The Eagles opened the second half with a 9-2 run.  An 8-point run cut the lead to 9 (67-58) with just under eight minutes left.

Jayla English, a 5-11 forward from Hanford, fueled the comeback with a 22-point explosion, getting most of her points in the paint.  She scored just 2 points in the first half.

Ramonique Redding also had a solid outing with 18 points.

Rounding out the scoring were Emilee Davidson with 6 points, Mylasia Smith with 5, Kennedy Kunce with 4 and Synclaire Lucas with 2.

With the win the Cougars improved to 4-7 in the conference and 8-17 overall heading into Saturday’s regular season finale at home against Fresno.  West Hills dipped to 5-6 and 14-13 overall. 

It will be sophomore night Saturday.  Tipoff in the Al Baldock Cougar Sports Center is at 5 p.m.