Women's Basketball Reaches Final Four With 53-50 Win Over Monroe
PEORIA, Ill. - The No. 1-seeded Mesa women held off two-time defending national champion Monroe (NY), 53-50, to advance to the NJCAA Division II Final Four.
The T-Birds will meet fourth-seeded St Clair (Mich.) (30-1), a 65-64 victor over fifth-seeded South Suburban (Ill.), Friday at 6:00 p.m. Arizona time in the semi-final game that will be available on video.
Mariah Willadsen, pictured right, (Fr., Mesa, AZ/Red Mountain H.S.) made both ends of a one-and-one free throw attempt with 6.1 seconds remaining to boost the MCC lead to three points. The Mustangs did not get off a good shot in the closing seconds, sealing the win for Mesa.
The Thunderbirds finished fifth in last year's national event, giving them the best two-year showing in school history.
The T-Birds slipped behind early, trailing by six points twice, the last at 12-6 a little more than five minutes into the contest.
.But MCC made up the deficit quickly, taking the lead, 17-15, on a three-pointer by Willadsen with 6:41 to go in the half. That was part of a 21-10 run by Mesa that put the Thunderbirds on top at halftime, 27-22.
Monroe erased the deficit early in the second half, slipping ahead, 32-31, with 14:56 to play on a basket by Brianna Perlmutte.
Mesa regained the lead, and never relinquished it when Mariam Ridgwell (So., Boise, Idaho/Meridian H.S.) scored at the 9:34 mark to make the score 37-36.
The T-Birds' lead never exceeded six, and the Mustangs pulled to within one, 51-50, with 2:20 to play on Jasmine McRoy's basket.
With 19 seconds remaining, Monroe fouled Peace Amukamara (Fr., Goodyear, AZ/Millennium H.S.) who missed her first free throw. Ly'Nasha Frazier then missed a field goal attempt for Monroe on its next possession and the Mustangs fouled Willadsen who calmly made both shots.
Nikki Tsosie (So., Chinle/AZ/Chinle H.S.) led MCC with 16 points going 6-11 from the floor. Willadsen and Ridgwell each scored ten. Leslie Tademy (Fr., Phoenix, AZ/South Mountain H.S.) was the T-Birds's top rebounder with eight.
Both teams struggled from the floor. Mesa was 20-59 (339) and Monroe 20-57 (.351). The Mustangs helped keep themselves in the game with some key three-pointers and were 7-19 for the contest.
The T-Birds are now 26-6 on the season and ended Monroe's year at 23-8.