Ane Esnal Aguirre gave Central Wyoming a moment of hope, then stole it away.
When the Eastern Wyoming College freshman guard missed a free three throw that would have put the Lancers up three, the Rustlers had 7.4 seconds to run the length of the court and get off a potential game-tying or game-winning shot. But it took Aguirre only one second to intercept the rebounder's outlet pass, draw a foul and seal the game for EWC.
The 63-60 final was too close for comfort but Eastern escaped with a fifth straight Region IX-North win two days before Monday's home tilt against Western Nebraska.
Aguirre led the Lancers with 22 points, including the game's final field foal -- a baseline floater with 29 seconds remaining to put the Lancers up 61-60.
The Lancers found themselves down by as many as nine points in the second half, but no lead lasted long for either team. EWC coach Tom Andersen called a timeout after a 10-2 CWC run put the Lancers in a 53-44 hole, and less than three minutes later the Lancers took their first lead of the second half on an Emilia Axelsson breakaway lay in. Seconds later an Emma Strom steal led to another Axellson lay up and the Lancers led 56-53.
After a 56-56 tie with four minutes left to play, the teams traded four one-point leads. EWC freshman Raleigh Basart hit 1-of-2 free throws to go up 57-56 with 3:15 left, and Central took a 58-57 lead 13 seconds later with a backdoor layup. Aguirre hit a pair of free throws with 56.1 seconds left to go up 59-58, and again Central answered on their next possession with a long-distance two.
The game was even tighter in the first half, during which both teams led by no more than six points. Eastern went up 9-3 on Paula Martinez Sanz' baseline drive four minutes into the game. Central later took a 22-16 lead with 6:59 left in the first half.
Central led 32-30 at halftime.
Aguirre was also EWC's leader in rebounds (nine), steals (six) and assists (four). Axellson had 13 points, six rebounds, an assist and two steals. Basart added nine points, followed by six from both Sanz and Montse Gutierrez Ibanez.
Sanz added five rebounds and four steals.
The Lancers host Western Nebraska at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, a game that was originally scheduled for November 26 but was postponed due to weather.
EWC freshman Ane Esnal Aguirre scored a team-high 22 points with nine rebounds, six steals and four assists in a road win against Central on Saturday.