Drought snapped as Mesa hosts playoff game against Lancers

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Olympians set an inbound play in the closing seconds of regulation.

Andres Armenta, Photo Editor

With 4.2 left on the clock, Mesa starting point guard Emma Fitzgerald launched a 3-pointer to beat the Pasadena City Lancers for the second time in three months.

But she came up short.

The Feb. 22 loss eliminated the Mesa women’s basketball team from the postseason, but head coach Lindsay Samaniego acknowledged the importance of the playoff appearance.

“[We] were happy for the program, moving in the right direction. We were really happy for the team to have the opportunity to be there,” said Samaniego.

The eleven-year playoff drought was over for the Olympians as they punched their ticket into the postseason as the #14 seed. With a win, a chance to play #3 overall Mt. San Antonio in the CCAA SoCal regional tournament.

In the Dec. 1 matchup, the Olympians beat the Lancers in a come-from-behind 62-61 victory. 

But not this time.

The Olympians were lively and energetic from the start, just as they were in games prior. After some early missed shots from both teams, Fitzgerald hit the first points of the game from beyond the arc, sending the gym into pandemonium. 

“When I got that open look I decided to take my chance…it felt good, broke the ice, and I think from there we started to gain some confidence,” said Fitzgerald.

Niki Madgedi would follow up with a three of her own extending the lead to 6-0 late into the first quarter. The Lancers sophomore leader Tena Ikidi answered with some quick post-work that brought Pasadena within striking distance at the close of the first quarter with a 12-7 lead for the Olympians. 

The second quarter gave way for Mesa’s quick offense to flurry, however, the Lancers had a response as the two sides traded points for the majority of the second quarter.

The Olympians found offensive support from starters Mackenzie Purnell and Gwen Morris-Lundstrum, while City ran their offense through Ikidi. Fouling provided Pasadena visits to the free throw line keeping them within a point as the half came to a close and the Olympians led 22-21.

With little to separate both sides, the Olympians and Lancers understood the importance of coming out of halftime with the proper adjustments to create separation down the stretch. 

“Our gameplan going in was to push the ball around and find the weak player…we just had to find somebody on the outside,” said guard Morris-Lundstrom.

Though Mesa forced early turnovers and offensive frustration for the Lancers, City held their own. On the other hand, The Olympians struggled to capitalize offensively and put up points.

Pasadena took advantage and applied pressure, going on a 12-5 point run to close out the third quarter and lead 33-27.

Entering the final quarter, the Olympians looked to find a second gear to mount a comeback and keep their playoff dreams alive. With just under six minutes to play, however, Mesa found themselves in an 11-point deficit, yet their resilience refused to be denied.

The three-minute mark sparked a surge of offense from the Olympians receiving contributions from across the board. A 3-pointer from Madgedi cut the lead to seven and a timely steal set up a layup for Morris-Lundstrom to cut the lead to five. Reese Hohenthaner followed up with her own 3-pointer to bring the game within two.

Within a matter of seconds, Mesa was back in the game. 

As the clock grew closer to the buzzer, Fitzgerald got the last look from beyond the arc, with a chance to win the game for the Olympians. Although she could not convert the shot, the point guard was crucial in the team’s late momentum surge.

“We’re playing in a playoff game that we haven’t had the chance to do in a decade,” said Fitzgerald. “I just thought it was important for us to give everything we had in a moment of opportunity,” she continued. 

Though an early playoff exit ended their season, much can be said about the success of the 2022-23 Mesa women’s basketball team.

“Overall we had a great group, they were best of friends, they worked hard every night, and were great teammates. I think we’re headed in the right direction,” said coach Samaniego.