"We're in," Vanguard Coach Russ Davis said of his team's pending at-large berth into the 32-team NAIA Tournament. "We beat a ranked team [No. 22 Westmont] earlier this week [in Tuesday's quarterfinals at Westmont] and we lost to the No. 3 team in the nation, so we won't drop that far. I think they'll take the teams in the top 25."
APU, which played in the NAIA title game last season, might just finish atop the heap this season. The Cougars have superior size, quickness, depth and skill and it was only a matter of time before that trumped the supreme fight and strong game plan the Lions brought Friday.
Vanguard came out firing, netting two three-pointers in the first three minutes to take a 10-4 lead.
The Lions' third three-pointer with 14:47 left in the first half gave the visitors a 19-12 cushion.
But Vanguard managed just four field goals the rest of the half, including a span of 6:36 without a basket, to allow the Cougars to run past them.
APU finished the half on a 16-3 run to claim a 41-30 advantage and the Lions never came closer than nine after intermission.
APU's Eboni Sadler, a 5-foot-9 junior, had 17 first-half points on eight-of-11 shooting from the field, to spark the hosts.
Sadler finished with 26 points to top four starters in double figures for the winners.
Seniors Molly Pfohl (16 points and 10 rebounds) and Sarah Boyd (14 points, six rebounds and three assists) paced the Lions, as has been the case all season for the All-GSAC performers.
Sophomore Allison Burns had 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Lions, but she was one for 10 from the field until making her final three attempts late in the contest.