Habekost gets nod in final game of career as a Maverick
Heather Habekost practiced only a handful of times this season before an Achilles injury ended her college career.
Or so she thought.
Habekost, the only senior on the Mesa State women’s basketball roster, started the final game of the season, and her career, Saturday, her left ankle tightly braced.
“It was fun, it was emotional, too,” Habekost said after the Mavericks’ 62-55 loss to New Mexico Highlands. “It was definitely exciting (to start) my last game.”
After 27 seconds, a couple of trips down the floor, a dead ball allowed coach Roger Walters to substitute for her, and she left to a warm ovation and smiles and high-fives from her teammates.
“My big fear was getting her hurt because she is so competitive,” Walters said. “I told her, ‘Don’t be doing anything to get yourself dinged up.’ I was glad she got back out on the floor.”
Habekost aggravated her Achilles early in the season. She was born with club feet and has had four reconstructive surgeries just to be able to walk. That she was able to play basketball stunned even her surgeon.
“It was the kind of thing where I couldn’t walk the next day and as many reconstructive surgeries as I’ve had, it was kind of time to stop,” she said.
Saturday’s season finale for Walters’ first team started out promisingly, with the Mavericks racing to an 11-0 lead.
They broke the Highlands press and got easy buckets and played inspired defense.
Suddenly, the wheels fell off at both ends of the floor.
“They stopped pressing,” Walters said. “We do handle pressure pretty well. We spend a lot of time on press break. They got out of it and if you notice, that was probably five, six minutes in and then we struggled a little bit.”
Highlands (11-15, 6-13 RMAC) hit a couple of 3-pointers and the Mavericks’ half-cout offense bogged down.
That allowed Highlands to hit the boards.
The Cowboys outrebounded the Mavericks (8-18, 5-14) 26-14 in the first half and 41-28 for the game.
A dozen first-half offensive rebounds allowed Highlands to recover from missing its first eight shots and erase the early deficit to lead 33-23 at halftime.
“If you can’t rebound the basketball you can’t play,” Walters said. “There’s not a lot else to say. They’re trying their hearts out, that’s the frustrating thing.”
Junior point guard Katie Cupp kept the Mavericks in the game in the second half. She scored 16 points with a game-high nine rebounds, six assists and four steals.
Meagan Selvidge was the only other Maverick to reach double figures, scoring 11 points. Courtney McCaig added nine points.
The coaching staff hits the road this week in a hard-target search for Walters’ first full recruiting class. Post players who can score in the paint and rebound the ball are at the top of the list.
“I told them I’ve got to coach better and they’ve got to play better and we’ve got to recruit better,” Walters said. “All of that’s gotta happen.”