For three quarters Desert Vista girls basketball did everything it wanted to Thursday night in order to send Mesquite a message.
It clearly didn’t hit the mark and neither did the Thunder’s shots the rest of the way.
The Wildcats shutout Desert Vista in the fourth quarter and continued their defensive stranglehold of the Thunder in the two overtimes to win 61-58 in the Division I Super Sectional II semifinals at Desert Ridge.
“I attribute that to our defense,” said Mesquite coach Candice Gonzales in the understatement of the year.
The Thunder (26-2) led 52-42 after three quarters and looked to be in line to payback the one team that beat them in the regular season.
Then the Wildcats (24-5) turned up their intensity and the Thunder got careless, impatient and cold as Desert Vista went scoreless for nearly 11 minutes – including the whole fourth quarter – and scored a total of six points over the final 16 minutes.
“We didn’t execute,” Thunder coach J’Ontar Coleman said. “We had it. We took shots that we didn’t need. I told them to suck the ball up. We had the lead so suck the ball up. It was a lack of focus.”
With that said Desert Vista trailed 59-58 with possession after a Wildcat turnover with 10.2 seconds left in the second OT, but Sabrina Haines’ 18-footer didn’t find the rim. Mesquite’s Cecily Wilson made two free throws for the final margin.
The Wildcats, who missed the front end of two 1-and-1s down the stretch in the second OT, advance to play Mountain Pointe on Saturday for the sectional title at 7 p.m. at Desert Ridge.
“It boiled down to who was going to play the hardest at the end,” Gonzales said. “My girls pushed through it.”
Wilson, whose availability because of a knee injury was unsure before the game, finished with 21 including a basket at the buzzer to send it to the second OT, Isabele Spruit had 12 and Alliyah Bryant added 11.
The Thunder had their chances as they missed two free throws at the end of regulation and missed a putback in the final seconds, had two turnovers – one at the end of regulation and a double dribble with 18 seconds left (down by one) in the second OT – when all they needed was a bucket for the win.
Kristine Anigwe finished with 13 points for the Thunder, while Emily Wolph finished with 11 and Haines had 10.
Desert Vista, which entered the game as the second seed for state, will still get a first-round bye when the brackets are released on Sunday.
“We will bounce back,” Coleman said.
And if these two teams happen to meet again Mesquite feels like they have the mental edge after completely shutting down the nationally-ranked Thunder.
“I’d like to think so,” Gonzales said. “Some people say the third time is the charm, but that doesn’t always work for me so maybe it won’t work for them. Right now, I am just going to focus on Mountain Pointe.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.