Mavs match Ft. Lewis’ physicality in victory
It’s no secret around the RMAC that the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team prefers an up-tempo, finesse game.
Saturday night at Brownson Arena, NCAA Division II’s fourth-ranked Mavericks got tough.
With Fort Lewis bringing a nine-game winning streak into the regular-season finale, the Skyhawks were not only playing to get the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament, but to solidify a spot in the South Central Region tournament. Fort Lewis currently is ranked eighth in the region.
“It was a big game for them, they’re fighting to stay in the regional rankings. They don’t want to get booted out, especially if someone (unranked wins a conference tournament and automatic bid),” senior Kelsey Sigl said. “They came out ready to go.”
Colorado Mesa (25-1, 21-1 RMAC) matched the Skyhawks’ physical play in the second half for a 76-68 victory.
“They were the hottest team in the RMAC, on a nine-game winning streak. They had all the confidence in the world, and why wouldn’t they?” Katrina Selsor said. “They played us incredibly well at their place. We were down at halftime there, too. I’m really proud of us. Obviously, it was going to be an emotional game, Senior Night and all, but we came out with a win.”
For the first 25 minutes, the Skyhawks (17-9, 16-6) were in control. Fort Lewis pounded the ball inside and outrebounded the Mavericks 19-15 in the first half, building a 23-11 lead when Christie Groh muscled inside for a layup.
“I think they kind of caught on that we struggle with more physical teams, and they did a good job playing tough with us,” Sigl said. “We just had to make adjustments in the second half and came out and got it done.”
Then CMU’s seniors took over.
Sigl hit a pair of free throws, then stole a pass. Bruna Deichmann finally got a couple of her double-clutch baseline-drive layups to fall. Katrina Selsor hit a long jumper from the corner.
What had been an eight-point Fort Lewis lead was gone, 44-44, with 13:18 to play.
Eleven of the Mavericks’ next 13 points were scored by seniors. Only junior point guard Christen Lopez got in on the act, tossing in a circus jumper on the baseline.
Steadily, the Mavericks built the lead, moving up 60-54 when Sharaya Selsor netted a 3-pointer from the corner.
With 6:28 to play, Sigl pinned her defender, took an entry pass from Sharaya Selsor and laid the ball in, giving the Mavericks a 64-56 lead, just enough of a cushion to keep Fort Lewis at bay.
“It was a playoff-type atmosphere, they had a lot on the line for the No. 2 seed in the conference and the regional rankings,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “They played hard, we played hard, and we kept going back and forth. It was a battle.”
Sigl and Katrina Selsor, fittingly, finished with 23 points each during their final regular-season home game. Deichmann, also a senior, had 13 points, and the Mavs’ fourth senior, Effo Baker, dished out two assists.
Selsor said the reality of Senior Night hit her unexpectedly, and she couldn’t seem to slow down in the first half.
“I felt like my body was going a million miles an hour,” she said. “My free throws, I couldn’t stop shaking.”
In the second half, though, with the Mavericks’ offense running more efficiently (48 percent shooting) and the defense forcing Fort Lewis to miss shots (35.5 percent after 44 percent in the first half), all of the players calmed down and then set their sights on the RMAC Shootout.
Mesa plays Regis at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brownson in the first round, and if the Mavericks win, they’ll host the women’s semifinals and championship game Friday and Saturday. And if the seeds hold, they’ll face the Skyhawks, who received the No. 4 seed, in the semifinals. Should the Mavericks win the Shootout title, they’re a lock to host the South Central Regional tournament the following week.
“It was good for us to have that type of game going into these tournaments,” Wagner said. “You have to come out ready to go. You’re in a situation where you’re kind of one-and-done in tournament settings. We’ve got to be ready to go.”