COLUMBIA — The Hannibal-LaGrange women's basketball team that stepped on the court Saturday at The Arena of Southwell Complex was a drastically different team from the one Columbia College blew out by 25 points last year.
Led by first-year coach Caleb Harrison and armed with big-name transfers, the Trojans kept the game close but fell to the Cougars 72-67.
"There's nothing a transfer from Purdue University and the University of Missouri can't change pretty quick," Columbia College coach Mike Davis said of the team's turnaround. "They have some very good players, and the coach has done a good job. They're not an easy team to play."
Led by 24 points from Purdue transfer 6-foot forward Ashley Wilson, Hannibal-LaGrange gave the Cougars a physical game, pulling back within striking distance every time it looked as if Columbia College was about to take control.
"She's just really good in the post, and it's hard for us to guard when we have a big person," Cougars guard Heather English said.
Former Missouri player Treenee Thornton added nine points and four assists for Hannibal-LaGrange.
For the Cougars, English had a strong game on both ends of the court, leading the team with 22 points and tying Julie Teeple with nine rebounds.
"Coach was having me work on rebounding, and that's what I was trying to do today, just get in there and get the ball," English said.
Sophomore forward Ashley Fisher helped secure the game with two 3-pointers late in the game.
Fisher, who rejoined the team for the second semester after quitting basketball at the end of last season, had a season-high 15 points in the game.
"This is the first time we've really gotten to see 'the Fish' we had last year," Davis said. "She was a shot-maker today, and that's what she was all year last year."
Davis said he was also pleased with his team's play late in the second half. Although the Cougars have a tendency to fade with seven or eight minutes left in the game, they had no issues at that mark Saturday.
"This is a spot we have to turn it on a little more," he said. "We called a timeout with about six minutes left in the game and really finished it on a good note."
Columbia College improved to 15-7 overall and 5-1 in the American Midwest Conference with the win. The Cougars will resume play Thursday when they play Harris-Stowe State in St. Louis.