On election night in the United States, the Mission College women’s basketball team embodied many of the same elements of its country. They have a lot of talent, but self-inflicted mistakes ensured more growing pains for the young squad. Despite coming off a strong showing over the weekend by winning two of three tournament games, the Saints dropped Tuesday night’s home tilt against City College of San Francisco by a 87-62 final. The game started out relatively well for Mission. The Saints held their own through the first quarter, trailing by scores of just 29-27 and 33-29. Even earlier in the game, a pair of back-to-back three pointers by freshman Madison Hotchkiss gave the Saints an early 7-6 lead.
Unfortunately for Mission, the team gave away a handful of possessions early that should have been easy buckets. Two terrific passes inexplicably went through the receiving player’s hands and out of bounds for head-scratching turnovers. Instead of trailing by a few points late in the first quarter, they probably should have held a lead.
“In the tournament we didn’t play teams as good as San Francisco” commented Head Coach Corey Cafferata after the loss. “San Francisco is a good team. They came in here and kicked our butt fair and square. The better team won. My gut feeling is [we] were intimidated. When you walk into a game intimidated, you are going to play nervous. We’re better than that score. We’re playing tough teams though. That’s the only positive. We’re not playing bad teams. We have lost to Chabot, East LA and San Francisco, three of the top-six teams in California. My overall thing of this game is free throws hurt us, but it wouldn’t have won the game for us. The better team was San Francisco.”
The Saints shot less than 50% from the free-throw line, going just 12-26 from the line. As Coach Cafferata mentioned though, better free-throw shooting would not have won them the game. Even had Mission successfully made 23 of 26 free throws, (which would be an excellent 88%), they still would have lost by 14 points. They needed far more from their outside shooters.
Hotchkiss isn’t the only Saint capable of hitting down those outside shots. Most notably, fellow freshman Jordan Passas has shown a knack for shooting from distance, but Hotchkiss‘ back-to-back threes were the only three-point shots the Saints knocked down all game long. The lack of outside shooting certainly wasn’t a formula for success against a bigger team in San Francisco. In particular, Mission had a tough time stopping Rams’ guard Destiny Kelly and forward Nahrie Pierce, who tied with a team-high 22 points each. Pierce shot an astounding 9-of-10 from the field.
So where can the Saints improve on defense?
“Our press” responded sophomore star Alyssa Springs, who once again paced the Mission offense with a team-high 16 points. “Our press needs to work. We’re getting beat on the half court, not trapping. Really, watching the back. Our back person, she gets caught defending three people. We just need to hurry up and get back to give her some help.”
Despite the lopsided loss, Mission did see some improvement early. Sophomores Kiarra Lynch and Miriam Jimenez both impressed early in the first quarter. Jimenez finished with 13 points, with seven coming in the first quarter. Lynch finished with six points including an impressive and-one opportunity where she drove the lane and got the bucket to fall while taking a hard foul.
The Saints have the pieces in place to continue to improve as the season goes along. Mission played toe-to-toe early on against San Francisco and played Chabot tough in the season opener. However, as Springs described after the loss to Chabot, they simply need to finish better. With starters like Springs, Hotchkiss and Jimenez, and Passas coming off the bench, Coach Cafferata has plenty of talent to work with. It is simply a matter of forming together a cohesive unit that can keep composed from start to finish.
Mission has about a week off before playing in the Palomar tournament down in San Diego.