Fast start, strong finish sends Mesa into Shootout title game
Another goal in sight, the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team wasn’t going to have another slow start against Fort Lewis College.
Just the opposite — the Mavericks raced to an 11-0 lead in the semifinals of the RMAC Shootout at jam-packed Brownson Arena and held off every rally the Skyhawks could muster Friday night, moving into tonight’s title game with a 73-65 victory.
“The last game Fort Lewis came out and jumped on us, and we had a slow start,” Mesa senior Katrina Selsor said. “We knew we had to come out and start strong and do the same thing to them that they did to us. We had to come out and put them away and make them know they have no chance.
“They made a run in the second half, and that’s when Kelsey (Sigl) stepped up and our different key players stepped up and we just kept going with it.”
The Mavericks’ four all-conference players led the way.
Selsor finished with 21 points, Sigl had 18 (14 in the second half), Sharaya Selsor 13 and Bruna Deichmann 12 for the No. 4 Mavericks (27-1), who set a school record for single-season wins.
Colorado Mesa, the top seed in the Shootout, plays the No. 6 seed, Colorado Christian, at 7 tonight for the title and the automatic bid to the South Central Region tournament next week. A win for the Mavericks will all but guarantee they stay at Brownson Arena, which drew 1,573 fans for the semifinal game.
And, it’s a revenge game for the Mavericks, whose only loss came to the Cougars, a 77-73 setback in Lakewood in early February.
“I just think we want another crack at them,” said Sigl, with her teammates smiling and nodding. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played them, and I think all the girls will be focused and ready to go.”
It was much the same against the Skyhawks, who led CMU at halftime of their first two meetings this season, but missed their first four shots and turned the ball over three times in the first four minutes of the game.
Mesa went up 17 points, 19-2, when Sharaya Selsor buried her second straight 3-pointer of the game.
“In the first half they played a lot of zone and they also double-teamed Kelsey, and my teammates found me when I was open,” the junior guard said.
Sigl didn’t get flustered against the zone in the first half, which had the Skyhawks sagging down on her in the post. Instead, she passed the ball back out and concentrated on rebounding, with five of her nine boards in the first half.
And with the Mavericks hitting from the perimeter, things loosened up inside for Sigl, who went 6 of 11 from the field after halftime.
“I was just trying to be patient with it,” she said. “If they did double, I just found whoever was open, if they came from the weak side, or the girl that passed the ball to me. The second half I don’t think they doubled as much, and I was going to get some open looks.”
The Skyhawks (18-10), who entered the tournament ranked No. 8 in the region, came back behind their senior point guard, Katerina Garcia, who led all scorers with 22 points. She also had eight rebounds, four assists and three steals.
“My teammates had a lot to do with it. Nobody wanted to lose. A team has to lose, one of them has to lose,” she said. “As a senior I didn’t want this to be my last game. I don’t think any senior ever does; you don’t want to close that chapter of your life. That was really my driving point.”
Garcia scored six points in a 12-6 second-half run that cut CMU’s lead from 46-35 to 52-49 with 11:55 to play.
“We had to chip away, and I told them, they took a big swing at you. You’re either going to get knocked out or we’re going to fight back in it,” Fort Lewis coach Jason Flores said. “It wasn’t going to happen in one or two possessions. We dug ourselves a hole, and we’re going to have to string together a few defensive stops and then go to work and attack a little bit more than we were at the beginning of the game.”
Katrina Selsor hit a free throw, Deichmann two, then Hanna Bowden blocked Erika Richards on the baseline with 9:51 to play.
The Mavericks controlled a loose ball, winning the possession, and after Sigl came in for Bowden, she made a nice spin move in the paint for a bucket and a 57-49 lead,
A driving layup by Effo Baker with the shot clock running down and a 3-pointer by Katrina Selsor with three seconds left on the shot clock pretty much put the game out of reach, 62-49, with 6:35 to play.
Katrina Selsor has a Shootout title on her resume, when she was a freshman at CSU-Pueblo. She’d like nothing better than to add a second championship.
“It’s our first year being here in awhile,” she said of CMU. “Keeping that in the back of my mind, me and Kelsey being our last year, why not do it now when we’re with a special group of people and a great coaching staff? It’s just a different atmosphere, now that we’re hosting it and playing in front of our home crowd and the people who have supported us all year. It’s been great.”