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Girls hoops: Mesquite routs Maricopa with quick getaway

December 14, 2015 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Mesquite's girls basketball team has endured some struggles the last two weeks or so, but the cure for that on Monday rested in good defensive play out of the gate.The Lady Wildcats forced 13 first-quarter turnovers that led to a 24-5 lead and ultimately an easy 76-46 victory over visiting Maricopa.

Mesquite improved to 7-3 as its up-tempo, pressure-attack took Maricopa (8--2), the defending Division II state champs, out of the contest quickly and decisively. Mesquite was 1-2 in a previous three-game stretch, a run that saw it shoot poorly and to some degree struggle with team chemistry. What coach Candice Gonzales witnessed Monday was a step in the right direction for a team that has the tools to challenge for the D-I title this season despite lack of size.

"Our shooting hasn't been what it usually is," Gonzales said. "We lost to Horizon (26 percent shooting)  and Hamilton (30 percent shooting). We managed to beat Liberty (33 percent shooting), but didn't  shoot much better in that game. When we're on we shoot 40 percent or a little better. We also weren't playing well as team in those games. There's been some selfishness so we adjusted the lineup some. We played better all around tonight."

Mesquite shot better than 50 percent in three of the four quarters (9-of-17 from the field in the opening period) to open up the double-digit lead. Sophomore Shaylee Gonzales scored 12 of her 16 points in the first half while senior Izzy Spruit and sophomore Lindsey Vanallen tallied six points each to help build a 36-15 halftme advantage. Mesquite shot 42 percent from the field for the game. Vanallen finished with a game-high 21 points and Spruit added 15 points. Mesquite connected for nine 3-point field goals (five from Spruit and three from Vanallen).

Along with forcing Maricopa miscues, Mesquite blocked four or five shots in the first half as they limited Maricopa to 4 of 24 shooting (17 percent) in the first half to go with 20 turnovers.

Maricopa put up a better fight in the third period as senior guard Danae Ruiz heated up from outside. Ruiz was 0-for 5 shooting in the first half, but sank five 3s in the third period. She finished with 15 points. The only consistent scorer for Maricopa was another returnee from last year's title team -- 6-foot senior Raegene Womack. Womack scored 17 points, mostlyfrom inside.

Mesquite is done with power-ranking games in the 2015 portion of the 2015-16 season. The Wildcats next challenge is this Friday through next Tuesday in the Nike Tournament of Champions, hosted by Mesquite, Campo Verde and Highland high schools Dec. 18-22. Some 90 schools, mostly from out of state, will be in the Valley to compete. Top schools competing from Arizona are Hamilton, Valley Vista and Mesquite.

Maricopa, has one power-ranking game left before the Christimas break. The Rams host Mesa High on Friday (Dec. 18). Then its on to the Valley Christiain Invitational Dec. 28-30 at Valley Christian.