Swarming, pressing defense was the difference Tuesday as the Mesa Red Mountain girls basketball team tasted defeat for the first time this season.
The Mountain Lions’ loss came by a count of 57-38 at the hands of Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) in the winners’ bracket quarterfinals of the Nike Tournament of Champions at Chandler Hamilton High School.
“We got into a pace we didn’t want to,” Red Mountain coach Martin Appel said. “It was very up-tempo and that was to their favor. We played into their hands more than trying to do what we wanted.”
Red Mountain (7-1) stayed close early on, even enjoying a three-point lead late in the first half. Both teams played strong defense to open the game, but Archbishop Mitty continued its defensive prowess throughout the second half as well and used an early spurt in the third to put Red Mountain on the ropes.
“They got a nice little run to start the third quarter,” Appel said. “The kids got a little dejected at that point. Even though we were only down six or eight, maybe 10, the way the game was going that was a pretty good lead.”
Archbishop Mitty’s Kassandra McCalister and Danielle Robinson led the way in the second half. McCalister scored 13 of her game-high 18 points in the second half, eight coming in the third period when a 13-4 run stretched a 24-23 halftime lead to 10. Robinson, who is headed to USC, tallied nine of her 13 points in the second half.
Red Mountain’s Kayla Pedersen scored 15 points. But like the rest of the team, she never got a good scoring streak going from the field or the free-throw line. Archbishop Mitty’s press, a couple different varieties of full-court pressure, proved a big part of that.
“We didn’t give Kayla a lot of opportunities,” Appel said. “Not in the spots or space we’d like to get the ball to her. She missed a lot of free throws, too, which she doesn’t usually do.”
Pedersen made 7-of-14 free throws. The rest of the team converted 8 of 12.
Bonnie Barbee and Amanda Bartlett added eight points apiece for Red Mountain.