Miriam Zabinski hit four straight free throws at the end of the game to seal a 60-56 victory for the Cuesta College women’s basketball team over Saddleback on the opening day of a tournament at Allan Hancock College on Thursday.
In downing Saddleback (6-4), which entered the game tied for 18th in the state poll, the Cougars, ranked 12th, improved to 9-0, but it wasn’t easy. Cuesta held a 39-27 lead with 14 minutes to go but watched it completely evaporate when Saddleback took a 47-46 lead with 6:59 left.
Courtney Chadwick scored five of her 11 points on long-range jumpers in the final eight minutes to help keep Cuesta in the game, and the Cougars’ success on defense and at the free-throw line made the difference.
Zabinski, who scored a team-high 21 points, broke a 56-56 tie with four straight free throws on consecutive possessions in the final 18 seconds.
In all, Cuesta was 23 for 30 on free throws, including 14 of 17 in the second half. Saddleback attempted just 10 free throws the entire game, sinking three.
Cuesta moves on to the semifinals, where it will play Western State Conference North Division rival Santa Barbara City at 5 p.m. today.