Senior night blowout
Defense fuels offense as Mesa women clinch RMAC regular-season title
A ragged start Saturday night just meant one thing for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team.
Time to ratchet up the defense.
The second-ranked Mavericks (24-0, 20-0 RMAC) allowed Western State Colorado University only seven points through the first 12 minutes of the second half, and that led to bucket after bucket after bucket in an 82-46 runaway victory in their final regular-season home game.
“At halftime we talked about our defense is something we want to get better at and (let’s) have 20 minutes of energy,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “We got to the spots and contested shots and I thought we rebounded better in the second half. There was no flow at all (in the first half), either team.
“Luckily we hit some shots and we struggled and missed a few at the beginning, but then toward the end of the half we evened out our average a little bit and shot a little bit better.”
The victory sealed the outright RMAC regular-season championship, the Mavs’ second straight, and was their 35th straight win at Brownson Arena.
“We’ve had two good years being a part of that and setting the precedence of what Mesa women’s basketball is all about,” Wagner said of the six seniors who were honored after the game. “It’s fun to watch them take that role on.”
One by one in the waning minutes, Wagner brought his seniors off the floor, but when he tried to give Sharaya Selsor her due, Western State called a timeout.
“We have so much left to do that we can’t think about it being the end,” said Selsor, who led the Mavericks with 29 points. “I’m sure when it’s all said and done it really will hit.”
There weren’t many tears shed, as is usually the case on Senior Night, as the underclassmen doled out gifts.
“That’s what made me sure I didn’t cry,” point guard Christen Lopez said of knowing the Mavericks will be home for the RMAC Shootout in two weeks. “This isn’t the end.”
As the Mavericks played tougher defense, it fueled the offense, but the offense got them playing better defense, too.
“I thought our defense was really good tonight,” senior guard Taylor Rock said. “It could have been better, always, but we really weren’t scoring and we kind of had to grind it out until the second half when shots started to fall and we hit each other. Then I thought our defense got even better once we started hitting shots.”
A nice Olajuwon Dream Shake-type move in the lane by Aubry Boehme, who faked to the outside and got the defender to bite, then spun to the inside of the lane for a layup, started to get the Mavericks to relax.
Then, when freshman point guard Erin Reichle hustled after a loose-ball rebound and sped down the floor and hit a pull-up 3-pointer, it really loosened up the shooters.
Mesa used a 14-6 run in the final 4:15 of the first half to take a 38-21 lead. Western State shot only 16.7 percent from the field in the first half and didn’t get much better in the second, making four of 21 shots (19 percent). The Mavericks shot slightly below their season average, making 25 of 57 (43.9 percent).
And unlike last weekend when the game got out hand, the Mavericks didn’t take a peek at the scoreboard and let up.
On the contrary — they played harder in the second half on the defensive end, challenged shots and allowed Western (5-20, 5-15) only three offensive rebounds.
“We knew they were tired,” Lopez said. “We had to keep pushing at them. As soon as we got a rebound we were supposed to go down as quick as we could and get as many transition points as we could.”
The transition points weren’t only layups — the Mavs tied their season high by hitting 11 3-pointers, some in transition, some after great ball movement in the half-court offense. Boehme finished with 13 points and Rock 11, with seven rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot.
Selsor said the Mavericks have caught their second wind.
“Right now it’s that point in the season … it’s like you almost feel like you’re not playing for something,” Selsor said. “You know that you are, but (let’s get there). We’re out of that, finally. We broke through that and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I think we’re re-inspired.”