The Mesa Grande Academy girls basketball team used strong defense and a fourth quarter run to win its season opener, 40-20 in a nonleague game with visiting Woodcrest Christian on Thursday. MGA closed out the win with a 21-5 run.
Junior Izzy White scored 10 of her game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. She finished with four three-point baskets, three in the decisive fourth quarter. White was aided by teammate Maddie Hoffer, a two-time All-Victory League point guard who had nine points and five assists. Hoffer and Rachel Langford led a stingy defense by combining on half of MGA’s 25 steals.
Both teams got off to a very sluggish start with Woodcrest leading 5-4 after one quarter. MGA flexed its defensive muscle in the second quarter when it outscored its opponent 11-0, good for a 15-5 lead at the half. Vanessa Peer, a sophomore making her first varsity start, scored three times in the second half, twice off of steals and assists from Hoffer. “I was nervous at the start but our team is very supportive,” said Peer. “I shot a lot better than I thought.” MGA has no seniors on its roster.
When Woodcrest (3-2) managed to get within two points late in the third quarter on 3’s by Khazana Martis and Alexis Noche, MGA coach Bob Walker called timeout and challenged his team. “I told them that it looked like Woodcrest wanted it more than they did.” The pep talk seemed to work, leading to his team’s impressive finish.
“It was a good opening game and I'm glad to get past it. I liked our defense but we have so much more room for growth. I told the team that by season's end they won't look like the same team,” said Walker.
Woodcrest coach Laird Musich agreed that MGA's defensive pressure made the difference. “They took away our immediate passes and caused us a hard time when they extended its defense. They also started hitting their open shots. We did learn from this game.” Musich did not say that he was playing without his best player Kaylani Lawrence who is injured and out for the season.
MGA sophomore Reiley Logan also showcased a skillful hook shot which she used to score back-to-back baskets in the fourth quarter. Teammate Joy Burdick finished with seven rebounds. MGA went on to open its Victory League season on Dec. 4 by hosting league favorite Bloomington Christian. The MGA girls basketball team did not enter pre-league tournaments this season where it has historically upset numerous larger schools.