Olympians Nip the Jaguars

Jimmy Spillane, Staff Writer

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The Mesa College Men’s basketball team defeated the Southwestern College Jaguars 61-60 in a nail biter here at Mesa that had numerous ties and lead changes throughout 40 minutes.  It was an essential win for them as they attempt to make the playoffs. The game spun in a 180-degree difference than the previous contest, which ended up being a blowout win for Mesa by 19 points.

The scoring began with a layup by Mesa and we were off to the races as both squads had quick guards. Back and forth it went until the Jaguars suddenly got on fire from 3-point land.

Three consecutive 3-pointers by the visitors gave them a 27-17 lead with just a few minutes left in the first half. The Olympians then went on a run of their own to close the gap to four at 34-30 as we headed to intermission.

Head Coach Ed Helscher could see a difference in his team, “We didn’t seem to be focused against Southwestern and that was our problem, beating them going away last time played a factor.”

As the second half got underway, it was clear that this Southwestern team was different than when previously played earlier this season. Starting forward Otis Barrow sensed that it might play out that way. “We were expecting a tough fight, a lot of trash talking was exchanged and it’s a fierce rivalry,” said Barrow.

The Jaguars continued to hold the lead even though a score by guard Jamil Brooks trimmed the margin to just 2 at 45-43 with less than half of the period remaining. The team from the Southwest wanted to shoot down the Olympians postseason hopes. Southwestern did everything they needed to do to leave the gym with a win as their lead increased to ten at 53-43.

Just when things seemed out of reach for Mesa they found the will to overcome the ten-point deficit. Otis Barrow explained how they did just that, “The key to the run was effort. We went from 70 percent to 110 percent; we just knew we couldn’t lose because we’d be done.”

A key substitution by Coach Helscher may have put the Olympians over the top when forward Josh Conwright entered the game in the waning minutes. He had two big scores; a key rebound and played a part in denying Southwestern on one of their last possessions. Helscher wasn’t surprised by his top-notch play. “Josh has been a part time starter, and he matched up well with Southwestern. He is our best offensive player at his position and won a game for us earlier on in the season against Bakersfield.”

After the two teams exchanged free throws, the Olympians ran out the clock and secured the victory by the slimmest of margins. They kept their dream alive of competing in the State playoffs for the first time in Mesa College history. Brooks knows what must be done to accomplish that feat, “We need consistency and execution for 40 minutes the next four games in order to come away with the wins.”

If the Olympians play to the level of their potential they will do exactly that.

Mesa’s next home game is against Imperial Valley College on Feb 22nd.