Burgon’s last-second shot lifts Mesa

All eyes were on the big guy.

But the 6-2 guy, Landon Vermeer, slipped in under the basket and tipped the ball back to the big guy. Colton Burgon did the rest.

When Burgon’s put-back slipped through the net Friday night at Brownson Arena, you couldn’t hear a thing. It was the first game of the season with students on campus, and they not only showed up, but were in midseason form.

It wasn’t over, though. With 4.4 seconds left, the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team had a 58-57 lead, but Western New Mexico still had a shot left.

The defense made sure the Mustangs didn’t get that shot off, and the Mavericks (6-1, 3-0 RMAC) escaped with the 58-57 victory.

“A lot of times it’s not the last-second shot that beats you, it’s the last-second rebound that beats you,” CMU coach Jim Heaps said. “They ran the play, and I thought Mike (Melillo) took a nice shot and Colton was there and found a way to put it in, and we found a way to win it.”

On the Mustangs’ final possession, Melillo deflected the ball away from Juan Suarez in the backcourt just enough to make him recover the ball as a valuable second ticked away.

“We knew they were going to curl that and get him a running start at the rim with four seconds left,” Melillo said. “If you get a running start from there you can get a couple of dribbles and get a look at the basket. We knew we were going to switch that, so I was ready for it.”

Melillo thought about trying to steal the ball, but he didn’t want to chance it.

“I wanted to go for the steal, but I definitely didn’t want to foul,” he said. “I got a hand on it and took some time off the clock, and Colton did a great job helping out and stopped him to where he couldn’t get a shot off.”

When Suarez got to the lane, there was Burgon, the Mavericks’ 6-foot-8 post, at the free-throw line.

That roadblock forced Suarez to take a dribble to his left, and the horn sounded before he could get the shot off.

The Mavericks had a seven-point lead with 3:22 to play when Burgon scored in the paint, but Lucio Luttrell drew a foul on an offensive rebound and hit two free throws. He followed that with a jumper, then Chad Carter hit two free throws with 45 seconds to play.

All of a sudden, the Mustangs were up one when Suarez hit a driving layup.

After the shot, which gave Western New Mexico a 57-56 lead, both teams ran to their benches. After the officials determined that 17.2 seconds should be on the clock instead of the 14.9 that showed, the teams were summoned back to the floor because no timeout had been called.

It gave the Mavs enough time in the huddle, though, to set up their final shot — or so they thought.

With about five seconds left, Melillo, who has been playing despite mononucleosis, pulled up from the right wing. The ball was on line, and Melillo was bumped slightly, and the ball bounced off the rim.

“I just wanted to get a shot off with time on the clock so we’d have time to get a suicide rebound,” Melillo said. “Landon did a great job getting a hand on it and, of course, Colton with the put-back was clutch.”

The suicide rebound worked, with Vermeer getting a hand on the ball and keeping it alive for Burgon’s 22nd point of the night.

“Honestly it was 100 percent Landon,” said Burgon, who got credit for the rebound, his 12th of the game. “Landon tipped the ball back. I was going for the offensive rebound as well, but Landon got to it and tipped it back, so he should get credit for that rebound. He tipped it back and that got us the win.”

Each team took a timeout — first, the Mustangs set their offense, and the Mavs called time to set their defense accordingly. As it turned out, the Mavs played it perfectly.

Mesa didn’t play great on either end, Burgon said, but the Mavericks made enough plays to win and stay undefeated in conference play.

“Find a way to get a win,” Heaps said, “and get the heck of out the gym.”


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