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Top-ranked Lions stunned in semis

Women's Basketball

No. 17-ranked Royals pull upset in GSAC tourney semis, despite 53 points from VU's Ballestero.

March 07, 2014|By Barry Faulkner

The greatest individual scoring performance in the long and distinguished history of the Vanguard University women's basketball program became something of a footnote Friday night.

Despite a school-record 53 points from senior All-American and Golden State Athletic Conference Player of the Year Nicole Ballestero, the top-ranked Lions were upset, 80-76, by No. 17-ranked Hope International in the semifinals of the GSAC Tournament at Vanguard.

The Royals, who were edged by Vanguard, 80-79, at home on Feb. 22 for the closest call the Lions had during their previously unbeaten season, had the final surge in a game that featured 12 lead changes and eight ties.

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The Fullerton-based school, which made 10 of 20 three-point attempts and shot 48.4% from the field, while holding Vanguard to 40.3% shooting (38.9 from threedom), broke a 73-73 deadlock with a 15-foot jumper by Krystyn Jacobs with 1:24 left. The Royals then held on to slay a Lions squad (26-1) that had defeated its first 26 foes by an average of nearly 29 points.

Ballestero, who made 18 of 35 field-goal tries, including 5 of 11 from three-point range, had made all 12 of her free throws before missing the second of two with 1:01 left to leave the Lions short, 75-74.

Brittany Bauman increased the Hope lead with a three-pointer with 44 seconds left, and Ballestero, who broke the previous mark of 45 points by Rachel Copeland, answered with a driving layup to pull the hosts within 78-76 with 35 seconds left.

But with only four team fouls, Vanguard let nearly 14 seconds tick away before fouling once, then fouling twice more to finally put the Royals on the line with a one-and-one free-throw situation with nine seconds left.

Hope senior Adrina Rendon, an All-GSAC performer who led the Royals with 25 points and 10 rebounds, nailed both free throws to finalize the scoring.

"[The Royals] deserved it; they played better than us tonight," said Vanguard's Russ Davis, the GSAC Coach of the Year. "They just shoot well against us. They shot the lights out tonight."

Ballestero did the same, scoring most of her points on mid-range, pull-up jumpers against a cast of defenders. After scoring 22 of her team's 31 in the opening half, she had 26 of Vanguard's first 32 second-half points on her way to 31 points after intermission.

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