Clinic on defense
Mavs shut down Fort Lewis, win first NCAA playoff game
It was hard to decide which was better Friday night for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team, the offense or the defense.
On the offensive end, the Mavericks shot 51 percent from the field in their 74-48 victory over Fort Lewis College in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional at Brownson Arena.
“They were really good on both ends,” Fort Lewis coach Jason Flores said. “They have that capability. They’re not where they’re at right now without being able to do that. ... They had great movement on offense, they hit shots, they got us scrambling a little bit, and when they start scoring in all phases, in the post, outside, driving, they become tough to defend.”
On the defensive end, though, Colorado Mesa (29-1) held the Skyhawks to 29.6 percent shooting, and staunchly refused to let point guard Katerina Garcia do what she’s done so well throughout her career, get her teammates involved.
“Clearly she’s a huge part of their offense, and I just knew going in if I could make her as least productive as possible, that was going to be in our favor,” said Sharaya Selsor, who drew the defensive assignment on Garcia. “My teammates definitely helped; it was team defense to stop her.”
Garcia went 0 for 10 in her final college game, finishing with five points, three assists, two steals and five turnovers.
“I think their defense stepped up, and they shut us down,” Garcia said. “They took our game and made it their game. Props to them. The way we played, we didn’t deserve to win, and they did. It happens. We went on — what? — about a three-minute run, and that was about it. After that we were not our normal team. It’s not the way anybody wants to go out, but it happens.”
The top-seeded Mavericks, ranked No. 4 in the nation, plays Texas-Permian Basin at 7:30 tonight in the semifinals after picking up the first NCAA playoff win in school history. Mesa lost its only previous playoff game in 2002.
“We kept saying, ‘Let’s make history here,’ ” Katrina Selsor said. “It feels great that this team could do that and can be remembered as one of … or I guess, the best team so far, here at Mesa. It feels really good to have that hard work pay off.”
But ask the Mavericks which phase they think was the key, and it’s unanimous.
“It was our defense,” Sharaya Selsor said. “Shoot, we had them. We let them go on a little two-minute run, but we had them at 15 points (with four minutes to play) in the first half. I feel if you can keep any team, especially one that’s made it to the region, to that ... Every team can score the ball. I also think our offense, it just runs off the defense. The days we get stops are the days we shoot well.”
It was 16-3 before all but the students in the crowd of 1,715 had sat down, and the Skyhawks never got going. There was a short run when Mary Brinton scored five quick points and Fort Lewis was within six, 20-14, after Erika Richards hit a layup off a steal by Christie Groh, but that was it.
The Mavericks closed on a 16-8 run and led 36-22 at halftime.
“They got up (tight on defense) on us and double-teamed immediately, and our girls were able to knock shots down,” Mesa’s Kelsey Sigl said. “When that happens it’s kind of pick your poison type of deal.”
With the defense not allowing Fort Lewis (18-11) to get its offense going, Mesa’s offense took off.
Sigl scored inside and outside, finishing with 18 points, Katrina Selsor was in her usual attack mode and recorded another double-double with 16 points and 11 boards, and even shutting down Garcia didn’t keep Sharaya Selsor from getting into the offense, with 14 points. Bruna Deichmann came off the bench to add 12 points.
“We got it to the person who was most open,” Katrina Selsor said. “We did a good job of finding the most open person and sharing the ball. When we do that, we’re unstoppable, I think.”
Sharing the ball was evident in one stat: CMU had 16 assists on 22 made baskets, and it opened each half with Taylor Rock hitting a 3-pointer after Sigl got the ball inside and kicked it to the corner. The Selsor sisters found each other several times, with Katrina throwing perfect bounce passes to Sharaya cutting backdoor for layups.
“We have countless people who can put the ball in the basket,” Sharaya Selsor said. “Our biggest thing is getting stops the rest of the year.”
Colorado Mesa coach Taylor Wagner, who is fighting the flu, said playing Fort Lewis a fourth time this season might not have been optimal, but he took the approach of focusing on an opponent, not the Skyhawks.
“We wanted to focus on an opponent and not get caught up in playing these guys four times,” he said. “When we needed them to be big, they played big for us tonight.”
The Skyhawks came in believing they could end the 0-for streak against the Mavs this season, but they had one of those nights when nothing was really working to plan.
Now it’s on to the semifinals, one more step in the Mavericks’ magical season.
“In the world of sports, you’re only as good as your last game,” Wagner said. “Whoever wins this next game, they don’t care what our record is. They want to win the trophy just like we do.
“As a coach, you’re already thinking about the next game. That’s my focus right now, making sure we do a great job preparing these girls for (tonight) and get a little closer to our goals.”