Fueling the comeback
Defense, clutch shots help Mavs rally in second half
After missing 16 straight 3-point attempts Saturday night, the problem was clear: the Mavericks were just too close to the line.
Erin Reichle took two giant steps back on the left wing and let it fly with just less than four minutes to play in the third quarter. Nothing but net.
“We did?” Reichle said when told how many 3s the Mavericks missed to open the game. “I don’t know, I just felt it. The crowd, we were on a run at that time and if I hit this, then ...”
Just like that, the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team, down 13 points at halftime, was back in control against Western New Mexico in the final game of the Holiday Inn-Airport Thanksgiving Classic.
Reichle’s 3 cut the lead to five, 48-43, and on the next trip down the floor, Nicole Archambeau buried a 3 from the right wing. It was only a matter of time before the Mavericks fought all the way back and did just what their coach told them they would do, win by 10, 84-74.
“Seeing shots go in definitely boosts everyone’s confidence, so having her step up and put that one in, we felt like we could all let it fly and they started to fall, thankfully,” said Archambeau, the Mavs’ sophomore forward who scored 15 points to lead six CMU players in double figures.
Bryanna Adams scored 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter, Reichle and Ma’ata Epenisa 12 each. Khadijah Vigil, with Epenisa getting in early foul trouble, gave the Mavericks 11 points and eight rebounds off the bench, and went 5 for 6 from the free-throw line, most on and-one opportunities after battling inside.
Sydney Small came up with 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists — Reichle dished out eight assists and had a half-dozen rebounds, as the Mavericks played tougher in the second half than the Mustangs. Mesa out-rebounded Western New Mexico 55-30.
Adams was assigned the task of trying to keep Jeylynn Fields in check, and in the second half, she came over the top of screens and challenged her shot. Fields, who had 13 of her 22 points in the first half, scored only three points in the fourth quarter.
“We wanted to go over the top on those screens. We were getting caught underneath and she was hitting those 3s,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “We did a fairly good job (in the second half). One time we went under the screen and she hit it, but Bry did a phenomenal job keeping her in check.”
The five second-half 3-pointers helped ignite the crowd, but the Mavericks’ defense ignited the comeback. The Mustangs’ first two possessions of the second half resulted in a missed shot just before the shot clock expired, then a shot clock violation.
“Coming out of halftime, you have to step up and give them a statement, that’s really what dictates how the second half is going to go,” Archambeau said. “If we step up defensively, then our offense is going to flow and that’s what happened.”
Reichle and Archambeau took over for a long stretch of the third quarter, when Mesa went on an 18-3 run to get within two on Archambeau’s trey.
“I think they underestimated Nicole and their help defense was bad, so we took advantage of it,” Reichle said. “Nicole hit her shots, and that was big.”
Archambeau wasn’t happy with how she played in the first half.
“I was just energized from not playing well in the first half and I had to come out and show it,” she said. “I crashed the boards hard, and it all starts on defense. If I pick it up on defense, then my offense starts to flow.”
Mesa tied the game 59-59 when Adams anticipated a pass, stole the ball and hit a layup with eight minutes to play.
A free throw by Archambeau gave the Mavs their first lead since the opening minute, and from then on, they steadily built on it. The shots that were falling for the Mustangs in the first half had disappeared, and instead, the Mavericks were the ones dominating. Mesa outscored Western New Mexico 24-14 in the third quarter and 30-17 in the fourth.
“I think them being up by double digits and us starting to build the lead back up and getting steals, they’re a good team, but it’s hard to stop a run like that,” Reichle said.
When Archambeau grabbed a defensive rebound with 30 seconds left, the crowd rose to its feet as the Mavericks broke into grins.
“They were into it, we could hear them,” Wagner said of the crowd. “We needed them. At halftime we told them, we’ve got to win the crowd over, we have to get some momentum.
“We talked about, we’re going to win by 10. They held me to it. I told them we could have won by a little bit more, but told them if you commit to the defensive end and rebound, we’re gonna win it.”
Western State 68, Bethany 55: The Mountaineers forced 21 turnovers to get their first victory of the season.
Four Western State players scored in double figures, led by Brianna Wilber’s 16 points, and Harlie Williams continued her hot perimeter shooting, hitting four 3-pointers for 12 points.
Western (1-3) led 20-12 after the first quarter and never let the Swedes (0-9) get back in the game. Tehya Peters scored 11 to lead Bethany.