TEMPE – The frustrating play on the court and lopsided score could have made for a long and embarrassing night for the Mountain Pointe girls basketball team.
Highland – especially Rebecca Rudd – was seemingly making every shot, pulling away to a double digit lead and coasting toward the state semifinals.
It led to a 62-55 Pride loss on Monday at Wells Fargo Arena in the Division I state quarterfinals but they never let the situation dictate their demeanor toward each other and they finally showed some life in the fourth quarter to make it a game.
“We told them at halftime we had to find something,” Mountain Pointe coach Trevor Neider said. “We had to keep our heads up and keep fighting. We started to believe again. The press that we used in the fourth quarter was the same one we used in the first. We just came out flat.”
Seventh-seeded Mountain Pointe trailed 47-28 after three quarters against No. 2 Highland (32-2).
The press started working and the shots started falling as Mountain Pointe scored 27 in the quarter and closed within 51-44.
After Pride junior Maddy Sulka hit a 3-pointer to make it 60-55, Mountain Pointe’s Kaylah Lupoe got a steal and senior Michelle Luna missed a 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds. Luna got the offensive rebound but missed again as Highland got the rebound and put the game away at the line.
“It was disappointing more than anything,” senior Ashley Clubb said. “We didn’t play like we could but we never let it get to us. We played hard and stayed together and had a shot at the end.”
The loss ends the Pride’s year at 26-5 in an attempt to reach their first semifinal since winning state in 2002.
“No one wants to talk about all the of the great things after a loss, but we accomplished a lot,” Neider said. “Only one team doesn’t sit in a sad locker room at the end of the year. Hopefully, you have some good things you can reflect back on and we do.”
Mountain Pointe brings big a solid core next year, but will miss the three seniors as Caitlyn Hetrick, Luna and Clubb helped the program back to a level of respect after winning just three games the year before they entered the program.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them,” Neider said.
Hetrick finished with 16 points, while Clubb had eight and Luna three. Lupoe, a junior, had a team-best 18.
Highland (32-2) was led by Rudd’s 29, while Oiliva Lucero had 11 and Melinda Myers added 10.
The Hawks were coming off a 31-point effort in the second round so it was quite the turnaround for Highland. Rudd nearly did that by herself.
“That's what (Rudd) is capable of doing and tonight was a great time for her to do it," Highland coach Miner Webster said. "I was disappointed with the way we handled their pressure in the last quarter. That's something we have to clean up."
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.