Mesa men’s basketball beats Santa Ana in season opener 88-84

Aaron Luna, Sports Editor

In an absolutely thrilling season opener, the San Diego Mesa College men’s basketball team staged a double-digit comeback to defeat Santa Ana College 88-84 on Nov. 2. Both teams came into the game unranked, but they sure didn’t play like it.

Mesa got out to an early lead. After leading throughout the first half by one point, the Olympians squandered the lead and went down by five points. They then allowed two consecutive alley-oops,  allowing the Dons to go up 29-22. Mesa then entered the halftime break, down 52-36.

Whatever head coach Travis Nichols told the players at halftime must have worked, as Mesa mounted a massive comeback. With 18:50 to go in the game, The Olympians stepped up their defense, not allowing another point to be scored by either team for the next 90 seconds of play time, and another 45 seconds before they allowed another score. They then rallied, until finally taking the lead with  7:42 left to play. Ultimately though, it was the last few moments that really made an impact on the team.

With 30 seconds left in the game and down 82-81, Olympians guard Daron Traylor, made the go-ahead basket.

“I knew it was going in. Just had to make shots to make it happen,” said Traylor, a sophomore this year for the team.

Nichols said he had confidence in his player to take the final shot.

“Daron makes that shot all the time,” Nichols said, “so when the ball was passed to him, I knew he was gonna make the shot.”

After a quick score by Jaiden Pate, Taylor then went to the free-throw line, where he made both attempts, to solidify the win. Overall, Nichols doesn’t believe the team should simply rest upon their laurels after the win.

“They played hard, there were some minor mistakes that we made early on, but they’re a young team,” he said. 

The opener was a star-studded affair, with everyone from members of the Mesa football team to Mesa College President Ashanti Hands. Most exciting, however, was the appearance of San Diego sports legend Bill Walton. Accompanied by his wife, Lori Mastuoka, Walton sat courtside in his own chair, watching the game while chatting with students and taking the occasional photograph.

“Well, we’re very big supporters of Mesa College and the Olympians, and this is our family. The coaching staff is our family,” Walton said, both figuratively and literally, as his son, Adam, is a first-time assistant coach at Mesa for this season.

The Olympians play their next two home games Nov. 4, and Nov. 9, then head out on a road trip from Nov. 11-16, before playing their last home game of the month on Nov. 18.