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Zias determined to return home

Zia guard Laci Lee drives for a layup as Texas A&M-Commerce’s Amy Putman challenges the shot. Freedom Newspapers photo by Kevin Wilson.

PORTALES — As Dan Buzard prepped his team for its home finale Saturday, the second-year Eastern New Mexico stressed the importance of sending senior post Jereena Bosket out on a high note.

The team responded that they planned on playing in Greyhound Arena again, and Bosket helped the Zias post a 79-69 victory over Texas A&M-Commerce that could help make that a reality.

Bosket was one of Eastern New Mexico’s five double-figure scorers with 17 points, and the Zias (16-9, 10-2 Lone Star Conference South) pushed their winning streak to seven games.

“Jereena’s got to be our go-to player when we need baskets because she’s so strong on the inside,” Buzard said of the 6-foot post from Las Vegas, who scored eight points during a 13-2 second-half run. “She’s tough to corral, against one or two players.”

The inside play of Bosket and Elizabeth Richards (10 points, 15 rebounds) helped the Zias counter the athleticism of the visiting Lions (6-19, 3-9), who were led by Amy Putman’s 17 points. Bosket hit four straight free throws midway through the second half, giving the Zias a 56-42 lead.

“The post defense was the key,” Commerce coach Denny Downing said. “We couldn’t defend their posts, any of them, and we just got killed on the boards (43-28).”

Laci Lee shrugged off a bad shooting night and led the Zias with 18 points, while Loren Scarlett added 15 and Heather Brown 13.

Brown hit a 3-pointer with 1:20 to play, and Lee hit a pair of free throws to squelch a late Lion rally.

“At this time of year, it’s about hitting shots,” Downing said. “We had just missed a three, they hit one. They only hit six 3-pointers, but they were at crucial times.”

The win capped off a 4-0 homestand for the Zias, who finish the regular season with games at Angelo State (Thursday) and Abilene Christian (Saturday).

The four wins helped the Zias stay in a first-place tie in the LSC South division. The top two teams in the division will earn home games for the conference playoffs, and the highest remaining South team will host the conference’s Final Four on March 5-6.

The winner of the final four receives an automatic berth into the Division II national tournament, and the Zias want to have a chance to accomplish that back at Greyhound Arena.

“We’re all hoping for that,” Bosket said. “We said this is not our last home game, because we’re going to be back here.”

Tamikki Williams scored 16 points for the Lions while Hazel Woods had 13.