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Mesa alive in playoff hunt

January 25, 2006|By By Dave Thorpe

It all comes together for Mustangs against rival Estancia in Golden West League action.COSTA MESA -- If Tuesday night's Golden West League game against crosstown rival Estancia is any indication, the Costa Mesa High girls' basketball team is ready to make a playoff surge.

The Mustangs bullied the Eagles inside and senior guard Judie Akansel was hot from outside in the team's 59-32 victory at Costa Mesa High.

Akansel hit four three-pointers and tallied a game-high 18 points, and Costa Mesa outrebounded Estancia, 38-28.

It marked Costa Mesa's second victory of the season over Estancia. The Mustangs beat the Eagles, 43-35, in the 15th-place game of the Costa Mesa Winter Classic Dec. 30.

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Tuesday night's victory was more convincing for a Mustangs squad that has never been healthier. Akansel closed out the first half by banking in a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Costa Mesa a 31-18 lead.

First half three-pointers by Estancia's Be Diep, Emily Carr and Alondra Barrera prevented the game from being a blowout earlier. But the Mustangs wasted no time in pulling away in the third quarter. Bethany Vergara and Akansel hit consecutive three-pointers and Nikki Brannon muscled her way to a rebound and layup.

By the time Akansel hit her fourth three-pointer of the game, Costa Mesa held a commanding 44-20 lead with 4:01 left in the third quarter.

The lead was insurmountable because the Eagles had trouble finding points inside and didn't hit any three-pointers in the second half. Diep had a team-high eight points for the Eagles.

"They have a great point guard," Costa Mesa Coach Jim Weeks said about Diep. "But after that, I think we're deeper, and we got hot. We made a couple of bank shots. When you're making bank shots from the side, you know it's your night."

Brannon had 10 points and 14 rebounds for Costa Mesa. Junior center Jennifer Courtney tallied eight points and eight rebounds, senior forward Tracy Bjelland racked up 15 points and Jasmine Werdel added six rebounds in a reserve role.

After losing some close games in which they played well for spurts but struggled part of the time, the Mustangs were hitting on all cylinders on Tuesday.

"We've been struggling to win games, but we've been playing people tough," Weeks said. "I knew at some point we'd put it all together."

Estancia fell to 3-13 overall and 0-6 in the Golden West League. A CIF Southern Section playoff bid does not appear to be in the cards for the Eagles.

The Mustangs improved to 7-13 and 2-4. They are tied for fourth place with Santa Ana, just one game behind Westminster and Orange, each tied for third at 3-3.

"It's in our hands," Weeks said. "If we beat those teams, we'll go to the playoffs."

Costa Mesa plays at Westminster on Thursday before traveling to Estancia on Saturday. A pair of wins would put the Mustangs right in the thick of things.

"We've just got to do our best every time down court and be mentally focused the rest of the way," Weeks said.

Golden West League

Costa Mesa 59,

Estancia 32

Score by Quarters

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