Mesa Community College’s women’s basketball huddle during a time out in their Region I DII Playoff final against Scottsdale Community College on March 9, 2024. (Photo by Rey Covarrubias Jr./ The Mesa Legend)

Women’s basketball championship hunt ends after loss in national semifinal

The Mesa Community College women’s basketball will not compete for a national championship this season, as the Thunderbirds lost in their semifinal matchup in Joplin, MO against Kirkwood Community College, 66-43.

The Thunderbirds will have one final game against Community College of Baltimore Essex for third place in the national tournament at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 23.

MCC started the game strong, as both Mackenzie Shivers and Jaida Brooks continued their stellar play by leading the Thunderbirds to an early 5-2 lead.

It would unfortunately be MCC’s largest lead of the game, which was subsequently lost after back to back Kirkwood baskets.

A scoring error led to an official’s timeout just under the two minute mark remaining in the first quarter. The officials met at the scorer’s table and corrected a two point basket which was incorrectly credited to Kirkwood rather than MCC.

The offense was run through Mackenzie Shivers and Jaida Brooks, both of whom were playing well so far in the tournament.

Unfortunately, turnovers plagued the Thunderbirds all game as they gave the ball away 17 times leading to 19 points for Kirkwood. 

MCC were unable to capitalize off of 14 turnovers by Kirkwood, only scoring eight points off of them. 

The Thunderbird offense had a difficult time getting into rhythm, in part due to MCC’s own miscommunications and sloppy play, but also thanks to staunch defense by Kirkwood.

A drive by Mackenzie Shivers with just over five minutes to go in the first half ended in a turnover after an attempted skip pass was intercepted by Demetria Prewitt of Kirkwood, leading to a foul and two free throws for Prewitt.

MCC finished shooting 30.2% from the field, and only 21.7% from three point range. 

The effort on defense kept the Thunderbirds within striking distance for much of the game, however MCC entered halftime with a 20-33 deficit to overcome.

An 11-0 scoring run by Kirkwood extended the lead from eight to 19 in the third quarter, a daunting task for the Thunderbirds despite Kirkwood allowing their previous opponent Morton College to cut a third quarter lead of 22 down to just four.

During the run, Kirkwood freshman forward Lizzy Puot made an open three after poor transition defense from the Thunderbirds, which was only Puot’s sixth three pointer of the season, according to the statistics on the team’s website.

The Thunderbirds also lost the rebounding battle against the Eagles, getting outrebounded in the game 43-29.

MCC were able to cut the lead down to 14 in the fourth quarter, narrowing the score to 41-55 in favor of Kirkwood.

However, some light foul calls against both sides interrupted the flow of the game and made a Thunderbird comeback that much harder.

Despite the disappointing performance, the Thunderbirds continued to play with passion and energy. 

Jaida Brooks was vocal in her efforts to keep MCC’s spirits up, with impressive performances from freshmens Kayda Pierce and Aaliyah Garcia giving life to their teammates. 

The Thunderbirds would go on to lose 43-66, setting up one final game of the season against CCBC Essex on March 23 at 3 p.m. streamed on the NJCAA Network.

The games can be streamed after paying for a day pass available for $12.

  • 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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