It was a back-and-fourth season opener for the women’s basketball program at Mission College. Hosting the Chabot College Gladiators, the Mission College Saints held leads of 28-25 and 38-34 until a 11-0 second quarter Gladiator run turned things around for the visitors.
Saints Head Coach Corey Cafferata noted that his squad played well despite playing a more veteran opponent.
“We only have two returners from last year. [Chabot] has a lot of returners,” confirmed the head coach after the game. “I lost a lot of [players] from last year, but that’s no excuse. This is a good returning team that they had. We’re only going to get better. The way we play, our style, tonight it is what it is, we played a really good team. There are certain things we could have done better, but it didn’t happen. We’ll bounce back.”
The Mission College website lists five players who left the team after last season. Rachel Baity, Erica Pagan, Celina Pagan, Leigha Baity and LaChae McColor all moved on to play at different schools. Stepping up in their absence in the opener though was sophomore Alyssa Springs, whom coach Cafferata referred to as a “one woman show” with her 29-point, double-double performance (11 rebounds) in the loss.
” She single handedly kept us in the game,” Cafferata added about his star player. “We’re talking about a five-five, what? Point guard? No. Center? No. Five-five player that put her team on her back tonight. That was incredible what she did.”
All night long Springs was Mission’s go-to scorer, driving the lane hard and getting what seemed like all of her layups to fall. Tough as nails, her game reminded yours truly of Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green, an emotional and physical leader on the court. However, it was a much older former NBA star that Springs admitted to having a similar style of play.
“My nickname growing up has been ‘Baby Barkley’,” commented the Salinas native. “After Charles Barkley, so I guess I play like him. Small, but I play big?”
The Saints seemed to regroup strong throughout the game when things weren’t going their way. After the majority of timeouts the Saints got the better of the runs in the immediate aftermath. It isn’t surprising to learn that coach Cafferata has led the Saints to a 123-80 record in his seven seasons coming into this year. Before Cafferata took over, Mission had suffered through a 93-game losing streak, the longest in conference history. Under Cafferata, the Saints have qualified for the playoffs in five of seven seasons.
“He let’s us know what we need to fix, what’s going wrong,” said Springs of her coach. “He sees things on the court that we can’t see ourselves. He helps us fix passing, seeing who is open, gives us good direction and we all take it in.”
The Saints showed they have some growing pains to come this season. Early turnovers didn’t help as they were hitting their shots up until that 11-0 Chabot run and probably should have built up a bigger lead than just the four-point advantage at 38-34. Mission has some skilled players including guards Jordan Passas and Madison Hotchkiss, each of whom knocked down some big threes in the first half.
Unfortunately for Mission, the three-pointers dried up as the game went along. Conversely, Chabot got their three-pointers to start dropping in the second half. Springs was doing all she could down the stretch with her ability to drive the lane for easy buckets, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the more veteran opponent. Springs managed to get the game tied at 73-73 halfway through the fourth quarter after the Saints had trailed 71-63, but the Gladiators pulled away late, eventually winning, 91-83. Despite the loss, Springs was pleased with her team’s performance in the opening game.
“A lot better than expected,” said Springs. We came out fighting. Chabot had a lot to bring and we had an all new team. I had no idea what we would bring. We actually put up a good fight. I have a lot of confidence in this team for this season. We got our momentum going in this game, but we just need to work on conditioning so we can finish games.”