Chris Magninie/The Daily Sentinel
It was hard to decide which was better Friday night for the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team.
The offense? Or the defense?
On the offensive end, the Mavericks shot 51 percent from the field in their 74-48 victory over Fort Lewis College in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II South Central Regional at Brownson Arena in Grand Junction.
“They were really good on both ends,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “They have that capabilty. They’re not where they’re at right now without being able to do that. ... They had great movement on offense, they hit shots, they got us scrambling a little bit, and when they start scoring in all phases – in the post, outside, driving – they become tough to defend.”
On the defensive end, though, Colorado Mesa held the Skyhawks to 29.6 percent shooting, and staunchly refused to let point guard Katerina Garcia do what she’s done so well throughout her career: get her teammates involved.
“Clearly she’s a huge part of their offense, and I just knew going in if I could make her as least productive as possible, that was going to be in our favor,” said Sharaya Selsor, who drew the defensive assignment on Garcia, the Durango High School alumna. “My teammates definitely helped; it was team defense to stop her.”
Garcia went 0-for-10 in her final college game, finishing with five points, three assists, two steals and five turnovers.
“I think their defense stepped up, and they shut us down,” Garcia said. “They took our game and made it their game. Props to them. The way we played, we didn’t deserve to win, and they did. It happens. We went on what, about a three-minute run, and that was about it. After that, we were not our normal team. It’s not the way anybody wants to go out, but it happens.”
The top-seeded Mavericks, ranked No. 4 in the nation, will play Texas-Permian Basin at 7:30 p.m. today in the regional semifinals after picking up the first NCAA playoff win in school history. Colorado Mesa lost its only previous playoff game in 2002.
It was 16-3 before all but the students in the crowd of 1,715 had sat down, and the Skyhawks never got going. There was a short run when Mary Brinton scored five quick points, and FLC was within six, 20-14, after Erika Richards hit a layup off a steal by Christie Groh, but that was it.
The Mavericks closed on a 16-8 run and led 36-22 at halftime.
“They got up (tight on defense) on us and double-teamed immediately, and our girls were able to knock shots down,” Kelsey Sigl said. “When that happens, it’s kind of pick your poison type of deal.”
With the defense not allowing FLC (18-11) to get its offense going, Colorado Mesa’s offense took off.
Sigl scored inside and outside, finishing with a game-high 18 points.
Katrina Selsor was in her usual attack mode and recorded another double-double – 16 points and 11 rebounds.
And even shutting down Garcia didn’t keep Sharaya Selsor from getting into the offense with 14 points.
Bruna Deichmann came off the bench to add 12.
“We got it to the person who was most open,” Katrina Selsor said. “We did a good job of finding the most open person and sharing the ball. When we do that, we’re unstoppable, I think.”
Sharing the ball was evident in one stat: Colorado Mesa had 16 assists on 22 made baskets and opened each half with Taylor Rock hitting a 3-pointer after Sigl got the ball inside and kicked it to the corner. The Selsor sisters found each other several times, with Katrina throwing perfect bounce passes to Sharaya cutting backdoor for layups.
“We have countless people who can put the ball in the basket,” Sharaya Selsor said. “Our biggest thing is getting stops the rest of the year.”
Wagner, who is fighting the flu, said playing FLC a fourth time this season might not have been optimal, but he took the approach of focusing on an opponent not the Skyhawks.
“We wanted to focus on an opponent and not get caught up in playing these guys four times,” he said. “When we needed them to be big, they played big for us (Friday night).”
The Skyhawks came in believing they could end the 0-for streak against the Mavericks this season, but they had one of those nights when nothing was really working to plan.
“It was harder because it was the third week in a row, we hadn’t seen anybody new,” said Alex Easterbook, who finished with nine points.
Christie Groh led FLC with 12 points and seven rebounds.
“When their name popped up (during the selection show) it was a little disheartening, but at the same time, it is hard to beat somebody four times,” said Easterbrook, the Skyhawks’ other senior. “Credit to them for beating us four times. None of us thought we didn’t have a really good chance because all the games had been really close. It just wasn’t our night, and they came out on top. It’s hard to play Mesa four times in a year.”