On to the title game
Mavs battle past tough Falcons to advance to regional final
Katrina Selsor has another battle scar, a large scratch on her right shoulder. The Colorado Mesa senior forward just shrugged it off, mainly because scratches this time of year mean you’re still playing.
The Mavericks are still playing, with one more game to reach their dream destination, the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. The fourth-ranked Mavericks, seeded first in the South Central Region, play second-seeded Midwestern State, ranked No. 25 in the country, at 7 p.m. Monday at Brownson Arena. The winner heads to San Antonio for the national tournament March 26–29.
Colorado Mesa (30-1) earned its spot in the regional title game with a 78-68 win over Texas-Permian Basin on Saturday night, with the Mavericks doing their share of scratching and clawing all the way.
“They played us well,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “I don’t think they backed down for 40 minutes. I’m proud of our girls, though. I think we get accustomed to 20-point victories and 30-point victories, so when we have these close ones, maybe we feel it wasn’t a good win. But at this point in the stage, it’s survive and go to the next round. They fought to the end.”
As usual, the Mavericks relied on their big three of Katrina Selsor, who went over the 1,000-point mark in her three years at CMU, Sharaya Selsor and Kelsey Sigl, but they got gutty performances from all eight, especially senior point guard Effo Baker.
Baker’s eight first-half points off the bench gave the Mavs a huge lift.
“I just tried to give us that spark off the bench,” she said. “I knew it was pretty close when I came in. We were only up four or five points, I think. I felt if I can push up the tempo a little bit, we can get a little run and get some stops on defense going into the half, that would make us that much better.”
She certainly did that, checking in at the media timeout with just less than 12 minutes to play in the first half and the Mavericks up two points, 11-9. About 20 seconds later, she got a kick-out pass from Hanna Bowden and knocked down an open 3-pointer.
“It was an open shot,” Baker said, laughing, because she’d only hit three 3-pointers all season before that one. “It was a rhythm 3. Coach always says if you have it, take it, and that’s what I did. I didn’t think about it; I just knocked it down.”
With 1:22 to play in the half, Bruna Deichmann, another reserve guard who, like Baker, is more apt to attack the basket than shoot from the perimeter, banked home a 3-pointer just before the shot clock expired.
The Mavericks had that little bit of breathing room they were looking for, up six, 31-25.
After Permian Basin’s Teisha King hit one of two free throws, Bowden set a clear-out screen at the top of the key for Baker, who drove for a layup and drew the foul, hitting the bonus for a 34-26 lead.
After another free throw by the Falcons with five seconds left, Baker sped down the floor and was tripped in the lane, hitting two free throws with one second left for a 36-27 halftime lead.
Sharaya Selsor had the unenviable task of guarding King, Permian Basin’s talented guard who finished with 18 points, but King had to take 18 shots to get them.
“I think the hardest thing was I knew she was going to take it to the hoop any time she got it,” Sharaya Selsor said. “It was hard going through a million picks in a single game. I think that was a big struggle for guarding her. I knew every time on defense there wasn’t a single time I could relax guarding her.”
Katrina Selsor took on Briannah Matthews, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds, with Sigl tangling with Taniqua Ards, a 5-10 senior forward who finished with 20 points.
The Mavericks attacked the basket, drawing 15 fouls and going to the line 17 times in the first half. They made 12 free throws to the Falcons’ eight.
And Mesa extended the lead late in the first half with Sigl and Katrina Selsor on the bench with two fouls each. Sigl sat for nearly nine minutes, Selsor the final five after picking up two quick fouls.
Coming out for the second half, the Mavericks’ offense got warmed up. They shot 65 percent (13 of 20) in the second half.
Katrina Selsor hit a couple of driving layups and a short jumper off an inbounds play. Sigl took lobs inside and scored. Taylor Rock hit a 3-pointer, Christen Lopez a layup and jumper, and Katrina Selsor a 3. Her 17 points gives her 1,016 since transferring from CSU-Pueblo after her freshman season.
“It feels good, for sure, but I think it makes it that much better to be having the year we’re having as a team. I guess I’m happy for myself, but I’m happy even more that we’re having such a great year,” she said.
Sigl finished with 17 points, her 3-pointer from the wing with 5:21 to play all but sealing it at 64-51, and Sharaya Selsor had 14 points.
The Mavericks built the lead to 10 points and didn’t let the Falcons back in it.
“I think the main thing was we felt they were getting a little bit tired, and we talked about that during a timeout, ‘Hey, they’re a little winded, we’ve got to pick it up a little bit more and stretch that lead and put a little more doubt in their mind that the game’s over,’ ” Wagner said.
The Mavs’ 30 wins extends their record for most wins in a season, and they’d like nothing more than to win their final game on the floor at Brownson.
“I really don’t know if there’s a word that can describe it,” Katrina Selsor said “It’s been a great year overall, and this is just icing on the cake, I guess you could say. We’re just really excited to be here and have our fans come out and support us. We’re ready to get another win on our home floor.”