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The Mt. SAC women’s basketball team advances to the “elite eight”

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Mt. SAC women's basketball guard Hope Kakihara cuts a piece of the net after a win against San Jacinto College, 48-40. Photo courtesy of Hope Kakihara.

Saturday night, the Mt. SAC women’s basketball team advanced to the final eight of the California Community College Athletic Association CCCAA playoffs after beating Mt. San Jacinto College at home.

Aujane Mayes led all scorers with 17 points on 3-7 shooting (11-16 from the free throw line), while also contributing on the defensive end with three steals. Mayes’ constant ability to get to the free throw line provided the cushion the Mounties needed to hold off a late rally from San Jacinto.

The Mounties entered halftime with a comfortable 27-14 lead. Little by little, San Jancinto chipped away until the lead dwindled down to 3 points.

Coming out of a timeout, Mt. SAC turned up the intensity on defense and never surrendered the lead. The opportunistic Mountie defense took advantage of the 28 turnovers from San Jacinto and converted them into 22 points. San Jacinto’s defense, on the other hand, had a particularly difficult time staying in front of Mayes, who took up residence at the free throw line late in the game. Guard Remy Hare spoke on the rise in intensity.

“We picked it up as a team. We were much more intense at the end because we knew that if we lost, we would go home and it’s over,” Hare said. “We’re not ready for it to be over yet.”

Clutch free throws from Hare, Mayes and guard Hope Kakihara in the waning moments of the game helped in making the lead insurmountable.

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Remy Hare, guard/forward, hitting free throws with 2:17 left in the 1st quarter in the game against San Jacinto on March 7, 2020. Photo by Eric Tadeo/SAC.Media.

Intelligent plays also helped put the game in the refrigerator for Mt. SAC. A savvy play from Kakihara where she boxed out her defender to avoid a backcourt violation also took valuable time off the clock in the Mounties’ favor.

“Honestly it’s just instinct,” Kakihara said. “I was actually waiting for one of my teammates to come get it. It was just an instinct, we don’t practice that.”

Pressure in clutch moments did not phase the Mounties; they were loose like it was a game at the park.

“We’re built to play in tough games like this and ever since the beginning, Coach B has told us that we’re going to be in the tough games,” Kakihara said. “I think it was just our chemistry and our energy that really brought us together.”

Hare was even dancing on the court to stay loose.

“The dancing keeps me in a good mood and keeps me from getting too stressed out,” Hare said.

Up next for Mt. SAC is going against the North’s number three seed Chabot College in the final eight stage of the CCCAA State Championships. The game will be on Thursday at 1:00 pm at West Hills College in Lenmore, California.

Chabot comes in with a 24-6 record and off a narrow three point victory against Merced. Three more victories would mean yet another title for the Mt. SAC women’s basketball program, adding to the already impressive eight CCCAA championships.

Update, March 12: The CCCAA has cancelled the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships, which includes Mt. SAC’s game versus Chabot College, due to concerns over the coronavirus.