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Eagles strong second half leads them past Red Hawks 95-64
Womens College Basketball

Embry Riddle's Haley Villegas drives to the basket as the Eagles take on the Simpson University Redhawks Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Embry Riddle's Haley Villegas drives to the basket as the Eagles take on the Simpson University Redhawks Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019 in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

PRESCOTT — A promotional event Thursday night at Embry-Riddle left the smell of fresh Buffalo Wild Wings in the air inside the Activity Center, as the Eagles women’s basketball team took on fellow Cal Pac Conference opponent Simpson.

The Eagles came into the night sitting atop the conference, and behind a big game from Jenna Knudson and their defense, they took the victory 95-64 over the Red Hawks.

Behind a hot start from Haley Villegas who scored 11 points in the opening period, the Eagles jumped out to a 15-point lead after the first quarter.

The Eagles stretched their advantage to 20, and the game seemed to be heading toward a result similar to a 40-point blowout Embry-Riddle had in the teams’ first meeting this season. However, the Red Hawks came alive, putting together a 10-0 run behind back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the Eagles’ in half.

“(The run happened) and we came together and were like, ‘hey lets go, this isn’t us, we’re a lot better on defense’ and then we picked it up,” Katana Martina said. “Everyone came together, (and said) were going to do whatever we can individually to make the team work on defense.”

With the lead dwindling, Eagles head coach Michael Trujillo inserted Knudson back into the game, and she responded with seven points in the final 4:20 of the second quarter to push the Eagles’ lead back to 14, as they locked down on defense and never looked back.

Knudson finished with 18 points in the game.

“I think everyone played exactly as we should’ve,” Martina said. “There were times we were a little off on defense and they got some 3s up, but we came together, we focused and we reassured each other like, ‘hey we got this, there not going to overcome and take over.’

“We really buckled down on defense and worked as a team, and that’s what’s so great about our team, nobody has cohesion like we do.”

Outside of hot shooting from the outside where the Eagles shot 56.5 percent (13-23) from beyond the arc and 51.6 percent from the field, rebounding and defense were what sparked the victory.

For the Eagles, Melissa Pfeifer led the way with nine rebounds, followed by Kamryn Browne with six. As a team they outrebounded the Red Hawks 47-24 in the game including 16-8 at the offensive end.

Their ability to secure rebounds was crucial to their defensive success where they held the Red Hawks to 39.3 percent shooting and only 31 points in the second half.

DOWN THE STRETCH

With Thursday night’s victory, the Eagles move to 18-3 (8-1 Cal Pac) and sit at the top of their conference while riding a seven-game winning streak. The Eagles close out their season with three games at home and two on the road, all against conference opponents. In two of their next three games, the Eagles will face the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the conference as they host No. 25-ranked UC-Merced and No. 11-ranked Antelope Valley, which will help decide how the Cal Pac race shakes out.

UP NEXT

The Eagles will host UC-Merced at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2, as they try to avenge their loss from earlier this year on the road where they fell 73-71.

Chris Whitcomb is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @AZChris32. Email him at cwhitcomb@prescottaz.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.

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