Mesa women cruise past Highlands

The basket must have looked twice as big as usual Friday night for Jaylyn Duran.

The sophomore guard hit four of five 3-pointers on the way to an 18-point night in the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team’s 87-39 runaway victory over New Mexico Highlands at Brownson Arena.

“It was a good day. It’s always a good day when my family comes,” Duran said, giggling. “It’s just taking one game at a time and learning from that on to the next game, that short-term memory.”

And now, the Mavs want to avenge what they believe was a sub-par performance against No. 4 CSU-Pueblo tonight in the regular-season finale.

“I’m excited. So excited,” Duran said. “We’ve got to keep that same focus, that same mentality we had tonight. That’s got to carry over.”

Disregarding Highlands’ record (2-23, 1-20 RMAC), the Mavericks slowly built a 23-14 lead in the first quarter, then turned on the afterburners in a 28-7 second quarter to turn the game into a blowout by halftime, 51-21.

“We knew we had a big weekend coming up so we had to focus and take care of business tonight and get some momentum for tomorrow,” Bryanna Adams said. “Playing that team the way we did, team defense, team offense, that’s where it counts, having fun, it just flows.”

Ma’ata Epenisa scored off the second offensive rebound of the first possession of the second quarter, then Nicole Archambeau crashed in from the free-throw line to grab another missed shot and score to trigger a 16-3 onslaught.

In that span, Duran hit a 3, Adams grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a layup and Duran hit a layup for a 41-17 lead.

“Getting out and running like that, especially with the ball,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “There were times she took it with the ball all the way, and that’s huge for us. Those are easy buckets and we’d like that all the time. She played well; everybody played well.”

Duran, who entered the game averaging 7.6 points a game, played one of her best all-around games, stepping into passing lanes for two steals and sprinting the length of the court for layups.

“It started with our energy in warmups,” Duran said. “Even before the game we were locked in and mentally prepared. My teammates helped me on defense and I knew I was OK to get the ball and push it down the floor.”

Adams, who struggled last week with the flu, showed she’s back in form with 13 points, with Erin Reichle adding 13. The starters all played roughly half the game, resting up for tonight’s game against Pueblo, which has secured the regular-season championship and the No. 1 seed in next week’s RMAC Shootout.

Four teams are still battling for the other three first-round home games entering tonight’s regular-season finale, including the Mavericks. CMU and CU-Colorado Springs are 16-5 in conference play, with Fort Lewis 16-6.

Regis is one game back at 15-6, so it’s possible there could be a four-way tie for second place.

CU-Colorado Springs plays Colorado Christian and Regis hosts Black Hills State tonight. Fort Lewis has completed its regular season.

The Mavericks have the tiebreaker in head-to-head with UCCS, but not Regis. Mesa and Fort Lewis split their home-and-home series.

Not long after Adams hit a 3-pointer to push Mesa’s lead to 41 points, 67-26, in the third quarter, Wagner emptied the bench, giving the younger players plenty of time — and his regulars plenty of rest.

Adams said the time of the season isn’t lost on the Mavericks.

“Just go play as hard as you can, and that extra focus of knowing what’s at stake, knowing we have to take care of business,” Adams said. “It’s come to that point of the season where everything counts.”


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