Jessica Armijo provided half of her team’s scoring offense Tuesday night, lighting up the board for 29 points and lifting New Mexico Highlands to a 58-49 win at Oklahoma Panhandle State in Goodwell, Okla.
The Cowgirls are 2-0 as they prepare to visit University of the Southwest this Saturday in Hobbs.
Armijo, who starred at Robertson High, was brilliant from outside the 3-point arc, hitting seven of 10 long shots. She shot nine for 15 overall and four of seven at the free-throw line to get a career-high 29 points. Armijo also collected six rebounds, five steals and two assists.
Oliana Seanoa and Ashley Logan scored nine points apiece for the Cowgirls; Logan also snagged a team-high eight rebounds and blocked five Aggie shots. Briana Gholston added seven points and Whitney Polosky four to round out the NMHU scoring.
Tuesday’s first half stayed competitive, and the lead changed hands several times. OPSU’s Lauren Cherry made a jump shot to give the Aggies a 23-22 edge with 1:19 to go before halftime. But Seanoa hit a jumper and then after a defensive stop, Armijo swished a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the period. The Cowgirls took a 27-23 cushion to the break and never gave it up again.
OPSU’s Nicole Candelaria and Cherry made baskets to pull the Aggies within a point on three occasions early in the second half. But then Highlands made a 9-0 run as Logan, Armijo and Gholston scored to grow the lead to 40-30 with 13:45 left.
Panhandle found itself playing comeback after that. Twice the Aggies got within four points; the latter came when Camille Washington knocked down a 3-ball with 3:25 remaining. An Armijo steal led directly to a bucket by Polosky, and after a miss by OPSU, Logan scored off a pass by Whitley Coca, and the Cowgirl lead became 57-49 with 1:04 left.
Candelaria and Washington missed from long range, and the Aggies were forced to foul after Polosky secured the rebound. Gholston swished a foul shot with nine seconds left to finish the NMHU scoring.
Highlands’ defense was especially effective; the Cowgirls forced 24 turnovers and stole the ball 15 times.
Neither side shot particularly well — NMHU 36 percent, OPSU 37 percent. But the Cowgirls exploited the Aggie turnovers, scoring 18 points off them.
Rachael Beck was the only Aggie to score in double figures with 10. Candelaria had nine, Cherry and Washington eight each, and Kariz Bioni and Callie Schafer seven apiece. Schafer corralled a game-high 11 boards.
Highlands is off to a promising start under second-year head coach Tiffany Darling. Last season, the team lost its first six games en route to a 3-22 record. The year before, the Cowgirls lost their first 12 and ended up with a 1-22 mark. In 2006-07, they lost their first five and wound up 1-25 overall.
NMHU’s women begin league play Dec. 4 at Nebraska-Kearney. The Cowgirls open a four-game homestand one week later.