Mesa State Women’s team must find new go-to players
There are so many new faces, it may take a while for the Mesa State College women’s basketball team to find its identity this season.
Coach Timi Brown begins her fifth season with a nine new players to the program. One of the first things the new Mavericks will need to find is a way to score.
The Mavericks lost four starters, including the school’s second all-time leading scorer in Brittany Fowler, from last season’s 14-14 squad. Those four players accounted for 43 of the team’s 69 points per game.
“It’s a lot different,” Brown said. “Cassie (Hutto), Fowler and Lindsey (Kame) were great leaders, but it’s exciting to have a new team to figure out how they’ll gel together. We’ve got some work to do to get the kinks out.”
Mesa State opens its season this weekend in the Fort Lewis College Classic in Durango. The Mavericks play Oklahoma Panhandle State (0-2) at 4 this afternoon.
The Aggies are picked to finish sixth in the Heartland Conference this year after finishing fourth last year at 15-13.
Saturday afternoon, the Mavs play Angelo State (Texas) University (0-3).
The Rambelles, who finished 23-9 last season, are picked to finish third in the Lone Star Conference South Division.
Mesa not only lost the majority of its scoring and leadership, it lost a lot of size with Hutto graduating and forward Kelsie Gourdin, who averaged 13 points and six rebounds a game, transferring to the University of Alaska-Anchorage.
“We’ll change a little bit,” Brown said. “We lost a lot of inside personnel. It means we’ll have to play tougher mentally and physically and play defense and rebound better, but we’re still going to push the ball.
“We have personnel like the men. They don’t have a true big man after Kurt Bangle. We’ve got to find a way to
get the ball to the hoop.”
Senior Stephanie Delgado (5-foot-11) will start at post. Sophomore Courtney McCaig (5-11) will back her up.
Freshman Ashley Davis (6-1) could see minutes in the post as well.
“We’re smaller, but we’ll have an advantage being quicker down the floor,” Delgado said. “I can take the bigger players out of the post and some of our bigger guards can post up on smaller players.
“Ever since I’ve been at Mesa, we’ve played an up-tempo game. We’ll be matched up with bigger kids so we’ve got to get some over-the-back calls and quality boxouts.”
Delgado and Abby Hancock (5-9 guard), who split time starting last season, are the only seniors on the roster.
“Abby and Stephanie definitely have the most experience, so we’ll look for them to be leaders early,” Brown said. “Delgado has played well so far. For Abby, it’s a matter of being confident. With both, it’s all about consistency and confidence. Being a senior, the expectations are higher of them. I look for them to bring a
consistent effort day in and day out.”
The Mavericks added four junior college transfers who will help Delgado and Hancock pick up the slack, along with Grand Junction’s Hannah Walsh, who returns after leaving the team for personal reasons four games into last season. Freshmen Alaina Brennan (Central), Jennifer Landers (Plainview, Texas) and Ashley Davis (Evanston, Wyo.) will contribute as well.
Mesa State is picked to finish eighth in the RMAC and fourth in the West Division. Defending RMAC Champion Fort Lewis is favored to defend its title.
Here’s a look at Mesa State by position:
Heather Habekost, 5-6, junior
Last year: Golden West (Calif.) Junior College
Honors/Stats: First team All-Orange Empire Conference; led team in points, assists and steals
“Heather has stepped into a leadership role. With her, she’s got to be an offensive threat. She can’t just be a passer.” — Brown
Erin Richardson, 5-5, junior
Last year: Eastern Utah College
Honors/Stats: Missed most of the season with a knee injury, but was an All-Scenic West Conference selection.
“Erin is coming off a knee injury, but is a hard worker. I foresee her getting time on the floor.” — Brown
Jocelyn Zarling, 5-5, sophomore
Last year: Played in 26 games off the bench for Mesa
Honors/Stats: Averaged 12.6 minutes per game, 3.2 points per game and led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (41.2)
“Jocelyn provides a spark. She is a high-energy player. Now, she needs to learn to play in control and how to take charge of the offense.” — Brown
Two (shooting) Guard
Hannah Walsh, 5-7, junior
Last year: Played in four games and started two for Mesa before leaving the team for personal reasons
Honors/Stats: Averaged 7.3 points and three assists per game
Walsh dislocated her shoulder in practice Monday and could be out a while, but Brown is happy with the progress she made to that point.
Hannah Breidel, 5-8, sophomore
Last year: Played in 27 games, averaging 12 minutes per game off the bench
Honors/Stats: Averaged 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds per game. Scored a season and team high 11 against
“She is a pure shooter. She needs to be more consistent. If she can learn to put it on the floor, that will open her game.” — Brown
Alaina Brennan, 5-7, freshman
Last year: Central High School
Honors/Stats: Four-time All-Conference selection, three-time All-State player and scored a school-record 34 points in a game against Dakota Ridge
“She is a tough, hard-nosed kid. She has decent basketball instincts. She’s got to become a better ball-handler.
I love her mid-range game. She can finish.” — Brown
Abby Hancock, 5-9, senior
Last year: Played in 28 games with 17 starts, averaging 21 minutes per game for Mesa
Honors/Stats: Averaged 7.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game with a season-high 16 points last year. Made
the All-RMAC academic team.
“She can do a few things. She’s strong enough to post up, but we’re not going to ask her to do that too much.” — Brown
Alishea Kelly, 5-9, junior
Last year: Solano (Texas) Junior College
Honors/Stats: All-Bay Valley Conference selection
“She’s our most athletic player. She is good off the dribble and good in transition. The thing with her is if she is capable of playing a full season after having a back injury.”
Jennifer Landers, 5-8, freshman
Last year: Plainview (Texas) High School
Honors/Stats: Four-year letterwinner and all-district selection, three-time all-region and two-time all-state selection.
“I’m super excited about all her skills. She can be a great player. If she develops her jumper, it would improve her game. She has a high basketball I.Q.” — Brown
Ashley Davis, 6-1, freshman
Last year: Evanston (Wyo.) High School
Honors/Stats: Three-year letterwinner, offensive team MVP, two-time all-conference selection, conference player of the year
“She is real athletic. She can post up and penetrate to the basket. With her, it’s understanding defense.” — Brown
Stephanie Delgado, 5-11, senior
Last year: Played in 28 games with 11 starts; averaging 17.4 minutes per game
Honors/Stats: Averaged , 5.7 points per game and 4.0 rebounds per game; RMAC All-Academic team
Courtney McCaig, 5-11, sophomore
Last year: Played in 26 games, averaging 8 minutes per game off the bench
Honors/Stats: Averaged 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
“She played some good minutes last year and is starting out well this season.” — Brown