Murrieta Mesa’s girls basketball team left Temescal Canyon High School Thursday night with smiles and a ton of experience.
The Titans left with a 54-36 victory.
Temescal Canyon led from the start, led by sophomore Janae Peterson’s 18 points. The Titans will travel to Wilson of Hacienda Heights Saturday night for a CIF second-round game at 7 p.m.
The game boiled down to first-round experience for the Titans versus a first-ever playoff bid for Murrieta Mesa. Yet both teams were pleased.
Head coach Robert Gergins said his young Rams team executed quite well in their school's first-ever CIF team playoffs. They came into the Temescal Canyon Lady Titan's home court as an at-large team and gave a poised effort to a taller, more experienced opponent.
"Being in the playoffs is the highlight,” Gergins said. “That's a special privilege and a special thing to do and we're excited that they got here and that they played so well when they got here. Even though we didn't get a "W" here tonight, the girls are gelling.
“They're playing well, they like each other, they're fun to coach and that makes it a joy."
At the end of the first quarter, the Titans had built a 19-7 lead. By halftime, it was an 18-point lead, 31-13. Arica Nassar, who is headed to Oregon State, added 12 for Temescal Canyon.
Titans head coach Sarah Brust had good things to say about her girls in their effort at home. She was happy her players got to work on a few finer points of their game.
"We usually play a zone," Brust said. "We got to work on a man today; we got to work on some different things today so it was nice."
When asked about this night's leading scorer, Brust didn't hesitate to talk about Peterson.
"She worked really hard tonight," Brust said. "She was the difference.”
"My shot was just falling," Janae said. "I was driving to the basket and getting what I wanted. My free-throws weren't on today, but it happens."
Katie Smith was the leading scorer for the Rams with 14 points on seven field goals. Smith admitted her team had an initial shaky start at the game's beginning.
"At first we were nervous, but we kind of relaxed after we realized we knew what they were doing," she said. "We just had to get with it."
The Lady Rams were just 3-22 overall and 0-10 in the Southwestern League but were given an at-large bid into the playoffs.
"We earned an at-large berth, that's how we got in," Murrieta Mesa athletic director Bill Bree said. "We put in the paperwork and we were selected on our strength of schedule and our opponents and all the different things that goes into that formula.
"It’s the first of many firsts we’re going to have in our school history. They're leaving their legacy at Mesa because they are the first to go into playoffs and none of them are graduating."
In addition to CIF girls basketball, Murrieta Mesa also has two wrestlers that are competing in CIF Individual wrestling tournament Friday and Saturday.
Peterson was happy with the way her team worked together as well and praised her Titans teammates.
"They executed very well -- passing the ball, getting the ball into the post,” Peterson said. “We swung the ball very well and just looked for the open man in the open shot."
"Today I thought we passed the ball really good," Nassar said. "We don't usually really move the ball but the first quarter and the first half we passed the ball really good...I think we got around to being a team and playing as a team better."