Mesa College women’s basketball ended the season strong but lost 74-67 to Southwestern Community College on Friday.
Olympian power forward Lavinia Moa was the top scorer for the game, with nine successful field goals and three successful free throws, bringing her to 21 points total. Olympian center Yusra Gharram was Mesa’s second highest scorer and the third highest scorer for the entire game, achieving six field goals and three free throws for a total of 16 points.
The first quarter took off immediately, setting the pace for the rest of the game. Seven seconds into the first quarter, the Jaguars made their first bucket. Less than 30 seconds in, Southwestern forward Maya Robinson made the Jaguars’ second basket, setting them in the lead 5-0. But Gharram kept Mesa close behind, scoring a 3-pointer before the end of the game’s first minute.
The Jaguars were intensely dedicated to maintaining their lead, scoring their second 3-pointer of the game less than 30 seconds after Gharram’s basket. The back-and-forth started in earnest, with both teams driving each other up and down the court. The Jaguars turned the game back in their favor after nearly all of the Olympians’ baskets.
The game ground to an unexpected halt when the home hoop’s computerized readout went haywire, blaring its buzzer and glitching wildly. With the clock stopped at 4:20, players idled on the court and the refs used the time to contest the last score. When the game began again, the official tally was 19-7. With four seconds left on the counter, Gharram made another basket for the Olympians, bringing the first quarter score to 25-9.
Halfway through the second quarter, Mesa head coach Dorchella James called to her team: “You have to control the game!” She followed up, “There’s too much pushing going on!”
With about 30 seconds left in the second quarter, Moa caught a solid pass and made another basket. Moa then made a successful free throw shot, but Southwestern countered with another basket with 20 seconds left. Gharram snuck in one last basket with nine seconds remaining and closed out the second quarter 38-27, Mesa still trailing behind Southwestern.
During halftime, James expressed her frustration. She thought the best way for Mesa to break through the Jaguars’ defense was to keep passing, not dribbling. The game wasn’t going their way, she said, chalking it up to “last game jitters.”
Moa made the first basket of the third quarter, prompting rallying cries of “Defense! Defense! Defense!” from the stands and Mesa’s bench. When the clock ran out, the Olympians were lagging 59-43.
James’ voice rang out again as the last quarter began. “Hands up, hands up — rotate over!” But neither team made a basket for nearly two minutes. Small forward Aaliyah Williams snagged the first basket of the quarter with a free throw, but the Jaguars countered with a score soon after. With just over two minutes left in the game, Mesa had regained some ground with the game 66-58. Assistant coach Romalyn Apostol called out, “Move with the ball, watch your elbow!”
In the end, it was the Olympians who stole the last basket of the game. Gharram passed to guard Samantha LeMay-Zambrano, who passed swiftly to Moa, who scored on the final second of the game. The final score was only a 7-point loss, 74-67.
While the Olympians never overtook the Jaguars’ score, the team made great strides compared to their last game with the Jaguars, which ended in a 35-point loss.
Despite their losses, James was hopeful for the next season. Since almost all her players were freshmen, she said they’ll be playing together again. James pointed out that Southwestern was No. 1 in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference — “I’ll take this loss,” she said.
During the halftime break, the Mesa team had taken a few minutes to celebrate the coming graduation of power forward Melissa Craven. According to James, the sophomore player made the last basketball season possible by becoming the fifth player on the team. Craven was presented with a framed jersey and a bouquet of flowers. “She’s come a long way,” James said, and added, “She will be missed.”