Mesa Grande Academy basketball program goes through season-opening growing pains

Rachel Langford works around the defense for the score.

The Mesa Grande Academy basketball program did not seek a weak school in Western Christian, (featuring Bryce White) to open its 2019-20 season. The Cardinals lost both the girls and boys games to the visitors, 37-26 and 76-39 in a double-header played in the McAnally Gym last Tuesday.

Maddie Hoffer got the MGA girls off to a good start by making the only 3-point shot of the game, followed by Issy White's basket to give Mesa Grande its only lead, 5-4. From that point it was all Western Christian’s Hope Weber and Grace Weber who were unstoppable in the paint, combining for 26 points. Hope Weber accounted for 19 points and 11 rebounds.

MGA stayed within 21-15 with 5:40 left in the third quarter after Kaylie Wheeler scored off an assist from Hoffer. Western Christian responded with a 10-0 run to put the contest out of reach. No player scored in double figures for MGA, however Hoffer perhaps could have. The senior point guard opted to pass inside to forwards Joy Burdick and Kaylie Wheeler.

“I thought I could get their post players out of position with the pass,” said Hoffer. “It was a good way to get our post players some work.”

Hoffer and MGA coach Charlie Garcia agreed that playing a strong team like Western Christian early in the season should help later. “Games like this will set us up for the future,” said Garcia. “We want to be peaking as we enter the playoffs.”

Garcia is filling in for Bob Walker who is recovering from hip replacement. Hoffer, Burdick, and Wheeler scored six points each for MGA.

The Mesa Grande boys had a much harder task in trying to contain the Fighting Lancers Bryce White, who was perfect in scoring 27 points. White made 9-of-9 shots from the floor including three 3- pointers and made 6-for-6 free throws. White did not play in the fourth quarter. Teammates Raul Naidech added 14 points and Steve Rogers had 10 points and 12 rebounds.

MGA boys coach Todd Nelson said the loss of injured point guard Noah Lucero was exploited by Western Christian when it went on a 20-0 run in the third quarter. Nelson thought everything about the lopsided loss can be fixed. "We’re good,” said Nelson, who felt that sophomore Devin Buthurum was especially impressive. “He stepped into the role of point guard and did a great job.”

Buthurum scored nine points and connected on two 3s. Sophomore Sam Gorton made three 3s in leading MGA with 11 points.

Four-year varsity player Logan Neal scored 10 points for the Cardinals, yet admitted not being in the best of shape. “We started out really good (trailed by three in second quarter) and then we ran out of gas,” said Neal. “We have some good athletes who have the potential to become a good team like those in our past.”

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