Harrison, AR - The #5 Mesa Thunderbirds defeated the #4 Owens College Express Thursday night in the NJCAA National Tournamant, 70-68, to advance to the Final Four.
Playing a very similar Owens Express, Mesa used heart and gritty play to pull out the two point victory at Pioneer Pavilion.
As she has done all season, sophomore point guard, Takara Wade, led the way for Mesa, scoring a career 22 points and swishing an eight foot floater with 3.1 seconds remaining in the game to help the T-Birds advance to its first Final Four appearance since 2014.
It wasn't just Wade who was setting career high's in points, it was fellow sophomore, Deja Dagons, who scored a career high 17 points, connecting on 5-7 three-pointers.
Getting down early in the first quarter, 13-3, Mesa kept calm and stuck to the game plan. Mesa finished the last five minutes of the first quarter on a 10-5 run to cut the Express lead to 18-13. The second quarter saw the T-Birds outscore the Express 18-12, and Mesa took a 31-30 advantage into halftime.
Not connecting on any of her three-point attempts in the first half, Leah Goodman came out hot, drilling three long-balls, helping Mesa take its largest lead of the night of seven. Owens though would not go away, as they connected on a few three-point shots themselves.
Mesa had a 56-51 advantage heading into the fourth quarter and though Owens outscored the T-Birds, 17-14, it was clutch shots by Takara Wade and Deja Dagons that kept Mesa alive. Mesa shot 26-59 (41%) while connecting on 9-23 three-pointers (39%) to take the two point victory.
The T-Birds will now play the #1 Monroe College Tribunes for a chance to play in the National Championship game Saturday night. Mesa and Monroe will tip off at 8 pm CT, 6 pm AZ time on Friday night at Pioneer Pavilion.