Defense isn't what bugs Mesquite girls baskeball coach Candice Gonzales about her team after a handful of games this season. It's more offense — or should one say better marksmanship — she seeks.
Defense is Mesquite's strong suit, but her team's offense warmed up some in the second half Friday morning as the Lady Wildcats topped Seton Catholic, 50-34, in a key pool play contest of the Highland Thanksgiving Tournament at Mesqute High.
Mesquite (2-1) battled Mountain Pointe and Seton all week for the top spot in their pool, which also included Betty Fairfax and Flowing Wells. By virtue of beating Seton and later in the day Betty Fairfax, Mesquite, Seton and Mountain Pointe finished in a three-way tie for the pool title. Tie-breaking procedures advanced to a third step — fewest points allowed in all pool games — giving Mesquite the edge over the others. Mesquite (3-1) faces Dobson (4-0) on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in one of the semis. The other semi pits Highland (4-0) and Westview (4-0) at 9 a.m. The winners meet for the championship Saturday night at 6 at Highland.
Gonzales' concerns with point production were well-founded after the first half with Seton saw them make 6-of-30 field goals, win the turnover battle by five and trail at intermssion, 22-15. In its two previous games the Lady Wildcats won 72-14 and lost 48-43. Both saw plenty of misses — too many.
“Our offense has to be better if we're going to win games,” Gonzales said. “We missed 50 shots in the first game. Then missed 41 in the second. We finally made a decent amount of shots in the second half today (vs. Seton). I think we shot 50 percent in the second half. It comes down to them having confidence they can score and believing they can. Playing as well as we have defensively, we can win a lot if we shoot a little better.”
Mesquite got a heavy dose of Seton senior Julia Barcello with nine of her 12 points in the first half. Mesquite's pressure caused Seton problems early in the opening period, but Seton settled in and surged to its seven-point halftime lead.
Pressure took a toll most of the second half and often in the third period as Mesquite went on a 14-0 run the first five minutes of the third period. The Lady Wildcats outscored Seton, 16-5, in the period for a 31-27 lead heading to the fourth. Most of Seton's turnovers occurred while running its offense in halfcourt.
Seton stayed within four points the first three minutes of the final period, but was outscored 15-3 the rest of the way. Seton managed only two field goals in the second half. The Lady Sentiinels committed 14 turnovers in the second half to one for Mesquite.
Mesquite guards Cecily Wilson and Alliyah Bryant tied for game-high scoring honors with 15 points each. Wilson tallied 13 of her 15 in the second half and along with guard Alexis Springfield supplied steals and pressure that helped lead to layups, baskets in transition and not much from outside eight feet. Bryant hit three threes in the game — two in the second half. Mesquite won its final pool game late Friday afternoon, beating Betty Fairfax, 57-28.