The Desert Vista High School girls basketball team was just seven games away from a perfect season when they tripped over Mesquite High School last week and showed the rest of Division I that they are mortal after all.
Prior to the unexpected derailment by the Wildcats in a 46-44 thriller on Friday night, Desert Vista seemed nearly unbeatable as they rolled through the schedule in dominating fashion, beating their opponents by double digits at every turn.
It’s hard to call the Mesquite win an upset because the Wildcats were the No. 3 ranked team in the Division I power rankings, just two rungs below top-ranked Desert Vista and had lost just two games overall and only one in section play.
However, they were coming off a two-point loss to another top-ranked team, Basha High, so their spirits weren’t at a high point when it came time to take on Desert Vista, and an ‘upset’ didn’t seem likely.
But Mesquite hung with Desert Vista throughout this one as the teams traded leads throughout and actually led by one at halftime and took a one-point lead going into the final quarter. The win wasn’t in the books until Cecily Wilson canned a pair of free throws with just four ticks left on the clock.
Emily Wolph, Desert Vista’s senior point guard, tied the game with a three-point shot as the game wound down to just under a minute. But a foul in the final seconds put Wilson on the line and she sealed the win. She was also the team’s high scorer for the game, with 16 points, followed by Kristine Anigwe, the 6’4″ center, who contributed 11 points.
Candice Wilson, who scored eight points in the critical fourth quarter, led Mesquite with 23 points.
Had Desert Vista been able to get past Mesquite, they a clear path the rest of the way before meeting up with Basha for the final regular-season match-up. They play Corona del Sol High School tomorrow, a team that Mesquite beat earlier by 22 points and then had a string of three teams that have just three section wins among them.
Chandler High (12-7, 6-3) should give them a game after that, but it’s Basha that could be the final stumbling block. The Bears (17-4, 6-1) have become the new dominant force in D-I. They haven’t lost a game since the third week in December and are on a 13-game winning streak.
Mesquite has proven it can play with the best, having beaten No. 1 Desert Vista and, before that, No. 2 Dobson High School. They are 17-4, have lost just one game in section play, and the two-point loss to Basha last week is their only defeat in the last nine games.
They are averaging 55 points a game, but it’s their defense that is making the Wildcats a contender moving into the state playoffs. They held Desert Vista to 17 points in the first half, Desert Vista’s lowest first-half output so far, and the 44 points were the fewest DV has scored all season.
With the state playoffs just around the corner, and a handful of teams peaking at the right time, the Division I brackets should be worth watching.