Mesa Community College women’s basketball nears playoff one seed

The Mesa Community College women’s basketball team prepares for the playoffs as they enter the final game of the regular season against Cochise College on March 4.

The Thunderbirds sit at 23-5 overall and 18-4 in conference, good enough to be tied with Pima Community College for the one seed in the playoffs.

The team is currently on a four game win streak. Their best win streak came during an 11 game stretch from Jan. 6 to Feb. 14, the last time the Thunderbirds played Pima and lost 69-62.

Despite the most recent matchup going in the favor of the Aztecs, MCC won the first two matchups against Pima earlier in the year.

One of the strengths of the team is their defense, according to their head coach Kori Stephenson.

“They’re smart defensively. They’ve got some defensive IQ and they’re some competitive people, and then more importantly, they’ve just been really connected all season long,” said Stephenson.

The Thunderbirds allow the lowest three point percentage in the conference, with opponents only making 21.8% of three-point attempts on average against MCC. 

The team also forces an average 20.9 turnovers per game, second in the conference in the statistic, while also allowing only 48.8 points per game, good enough for second in the league. 

The Thunderbirds are one of two teams allowing fewer than 50 points per game, being joined by Division I foe Eastern Arizona College who allows 47.7 points on average.

The team is also one of the best in three point shooting. The Thunderbirds make 31.6% of their three pointers, good enough for second in the conference, while also taking the third spot for the most threes made per game.

The Thunderbirds have a 1.14 assist to turnover ratio, only one of three schools in the conference to have a positive rating in the statistic. 

Coach Stephenson credits the team’s toughness for its ability to maintain such a high level of play.

“To be mentally tough you got to prepare the same way for each opponent. We probably have spent more time coaching that up a little bit this year,” said Stephenson.

One standout on the team is freshman guard Ashiian Hunter, who leads the team in minutes played in the season with 692 over 27 games. 

Hunter averages 11.2 points per game, good for second on the team behind sophomore guard Jaida Brooks who averages 12.1 points per game.

Hunter also shoots 32.9 percent from three, one of five players on the team who shoot above 30 percent. Among the five, Hunter has shot the most three pointers on the year with 158. 

Second on the team is sophomore guard Miquedah Taliman with 129 on the season. Taliman is also second on the team in assist to turnover ratio at 2.7.

Leading the team in assists is Brooks with 105, far and away the best on the team. Sophomore guard Mackenzie Shivers is second on the team in assists with 59.

Coach Stephenson recalls their game against Central Arizona College as a pivotal point in the season.

“At halftime against Central, I walked in and they were really doing a lot of the adjustments on their own, they didn’t need me. That was a really important game. I just remember leaving halftime and I knew were in a good spot as a team,” said Stephenson.

The Thunderbirds will play their first round playoff game at home on Thursday, March 7. Time and opponent to be determined.

  • Adam Terro

    Adam Terro is the Sports Editor for the Mesa Legend. He joined the staff in January 2021 and first published with the Legend in fall 2020. His passion is for sports, specifically football and basketball.

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