Through two-and-a-half quarters, Mesquite and North Mesquite traded punches and appeared to be on their way to a down-to-the-wire finish.
The Stallions had other ideas.
North Mesquite shifted into a different gear late in the third quarter, exploding for a 14-0 run to turn a two-point deficit into a 41-29 lead and they never looked back en route to a 59-46 victory on Friday.
“That’s a rivalry game, a rivalry school, we just wanted to come out and take care of business,” North Mesquite head coach Elbie Gates said. “It’s always nice to beat Mesquite High School and we were able to stick to the game plan and came out on top.”
The first 20 minutes featured six ties and three lead changes, with the Skeeters (13-14, 0-3) grabbing a 29-27 lead on a layup by Lakeycia Bables.
The fourth lead change of the game would be the last, as a three-point play by Folasade Daniyan triggered a 14-0 run in the final 3:07 of the quarter.
The Stallions (6-11, 1-1) employed an aggressive full-court defense that forced six turnovers in the quarter. They converted on many of those, getting a pair of layups by Madison Spain, a three-point play from Kayla Pope, two free throws by Destinee Holiday and a layup by Nelise Moore that made it 41-29 heading to the fourth quarter.
“At halftime, I just told them to make sure we continue to focus on executing. Our defense always turns into our offense, so as long as we’re getting stops and sticking to the game plan,” Gates said. “I think that was the game-changer and we kept the energy from the first half to the second half and were able to put a full game together and that is why we came out on top.”
The run was part of a big quarter for Spain, who had also hit a 3-pointer a few minutes earlier. The freshman was not finished, as she added a pair of buckets in the fourth to finish with 13 points and five rebounds—all of which came after halftime.
“She’s the only freshman on varsity right now and it is a big job for her, but yeah, she was a spark out there today,” Gates said.
Mesquite tried to mount a charge in the fourth quarter, as Jene Samuels hit a pair of 3-pointers as part of a 9-2 run to close to within 45-38 with 4:35 still left.
North Mesquite had an answer, though, as Pope hit a floater in the lane to push it back to 48-38.
The Skeeters twice got back to within eight, but baskets inside by Holiday and Spain and a 3-pointer by Arika LeRoy kept the Stallions comfortably ahead until the end.
Bables had 17 points, 11 of which came in the first half, while Samuels was also in double figures with 14, including four 3-pointers, for Mesquite.
Pope paced North Mesquite with 14 points, followed by Spain with 13 and Daniyan with 11. Pope not only leads the team in scoring, she pulled down rebounds and recorded several steals to get the offense going and she consistently set up her teammates, finishing with six assists.
“She provides pretty much everything on offense,” Gates said. “She controls the offense, she’s like a walking bucket, she can go get a basket whenever we need one and her teammates look up to her. They look for her to take over the game like she did, so she’s a very important asset to our team and she knows that.”
With the result, North Mesquite goes from being without a district win to vaulting up into a tie for third place with Longview. But the Stallions know the challenges will come every round and up next is defending district co-champion Rockwall, who is also feeling good about itself after bouncing back from a 0-2 start with a win over rival Rockwall-Heath on Friday.
“It’s real big. We’ve got Rockwall next and I think just from this win, just keeping that momentum onto the next game … that will be very big for us,” Gates said. “I think we’re starting to figure it out. We’ve been focusing on execution and staying disciplined and committed to what we are doing , so I think this was a big win for us because they did a really good job executing everything we needed them to do for the entire game.”