By Dave Wagner
Facing a long trip home, Colorado State-Pueblo women’s coach Misty Murphy was relieved to earn a win.
The Thunderwolves survived a back-and-forth battle with Eastern New Mexico University Thursday night, pulling out a 74-72 overtime win at Greyhound Arena behind 30 points and 11 rebounds from senior post Nadia Fercha.
“It’s great to walk away with a win,” said Murphy, whose team eked out its fourth consecutive victory following a 1-4 start. “We weren’t happy with the way we played, but I give Eastern New Mexico a lot of credit. They have some great players.”
Fercha, a stocky 6-foot post, proved to be a little too much for the Zias to handle around the basket, and it was evident the Thunderwolves tried to go to her as the game went on.
Also a factor was junior forward Ebony Walker, who came off the bench to add 18 points and eight rebounds.
“In the first half, Ebony was on fire,” Murphy said. “She’s more of a transition player; she’s not really a go-to person, but tonight she hit her shots.”
Junior guard Laci Lee scored 21 points for ENMU (4-5), while senior Jereena Bosket added 15 points and sophomore Elizabeth Richards scored 11.
“We just came out flat the first half, and we were afraid we might do that,” said Zias coach Dan Buzard, whose squad was coming off a 19-point thumping of West Texas A&M on Tuesday. “We just weren’t consistent tonight.
“Fifty-two (Fercha) killed us, and 42 (Walker) might’ve had the night of her life. She really played a great game for them.”
Pueblo led by eight points twice in the first half, but the Zias (4-5) closed to 34-32 at halftime and opened a 49-42 advantage with 9:45 left on a spinning bank shot in the lane by guard Kristi McGuire.
But Fercha scored 12 points over the next seven minutes, and Walker’s back-to-back baskets put the Thunderwolves in front 63-58 with 1:14 left.
Lee scored the final five points in regulation, forcing overtime with a runner in the lane as time expired. Fouled with 5.5 seconds left, she missed two free throws — the second one on purpose — and then gained a held ball to give ENMU a final opportunity on the alternate possession.
Junior post Loren Scarlett buried jumpers on Eastern’s first two possessions in OT, but Walker scored from the baseline as the shot clock expired to keep the Thunderwolves close. Guard Tara Palko’s 3-pointer with 1:57 left gave CSU-Pueblo the lead for good at 70-68.
Down by a point, the Zias fouled Fercha with eight seconds left. She made the first of two free throws, but Eastern failed to get a shot before time expired.
“I wish we could go into Christmas 5-4 instead of 4-5, but we haven’t played an easy schedule,” Buzard said. “I thought we played (well) on both ends of the floor in the second half. But for us to be a better team, we’ve got to be more consistent and make every possession count.”