Mavs win a thriller at Mines
Playing without two starters Friday night, the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team turned to its senior leader.
Jeff Hart scored 12 of his 22 points in overtime to lead the Mavericks to a 77-74 victory over Colorado School of Mines in Golden in a crucial swing game to stay in the top four in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The Mavericks (14-4, 11-3 RMAC) extended their lead on Mines to four games and are solidly in fourth place, only one-half game behind Fort Lewis and Adams State. Those teams play each other tonight.
Starters Mike Melillo and Daniel Estes did not make the trip after violating team rules, associate head coach Andy Shantz said.
It left the Mavericks with only one perimeter substitution, Mac Alexander, who has seen limited minutes this season. Shawn King is still out with an injury.
“It’s funny, we still had plenty of post depth, but we only had one perimeter sub off the bench,” Shantz said. “Some of those guys logged heavy minutes, but they responded.”
Kevin Screen started at point guard for Estes, and Clay Kame replaced Melillo. When Screen went to the bench, Kame slid over to point guard, with Alexander on the wing.
At times, the Mavericks went to two post players, with Colton and Chandler Burgon, or one of the Burgons and Ryan Stephan, on the floor together, allowing Paul Walter to get a breather.
Colton Burgon finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Walter added 14 points and nine rebounds.
The Orediggers (10-8, 7-7) tied the game with just more than one minute to play, but neither team could score to end regulation.
Trevor Wages muscled inside for a bucket and a foul, converting a three-point play for Mines to open overtime.
Hart answered with a 3-pointer to tie the game 64-64, and after the Orediggers’ Brian Muller scored on the other end, Hart snapped off another 3 for a 67-66 lead.
The Mavericks didn’t trail again.
“Jeff hit eight straight for us right when we kinda felt like maybe we used all our gas to hold on in regulation,” Shantz said. “It’s nice to see we can play an overtime game on the road and be tough enough to pull it out.”
Screen came up with a steal, and Wages fouled Hart, who made two free throws. With 57 seconds to play, Walter stole the ball, and Screen hit a layup on the break.
Chandler Burgon was fouled and hit two free throws for a 73-66 lead, but the final 30 seconds were anything but safe, even after Hart’s two free throws made it 75-68.
Luke Meich drew a foul on a missed 3-pointer and made all three free throws to pull Mines within four, 75-71, and from there, the Orediggers had to foul and hope the Mavericks missed.
Hart hit two with 20 seconds left, but Muller answered with a 3-pointer with 15 seconds on the clock, giving Mines a chance, down 77-74.
Hart had the ball and was called for an offensive foul, giving the Orediggers the ball back with 5.2 seconds to play.
After a timeout to discuss their options, the Mavs opted to foul Ruben Jackson with 1.2 seconds left, not giving Mines a chance to shoot a potential tying 3-pointer or attack the basket and hope to score and draw a foul.
Jackson missed both free throws, the second on purpose, but Mines couldn’t get off another shot.
Mines rallied from a 15-point halftime deficit to send the game to overtime, outscoring Mesa 41-26 in the second half.
The Mavericks committed nine second-half turnovers that helped the Orediggers’ comeback.
“We turned it over a little bit in the second half,” Shantz said. “They went zone, and it took us out of a rhythm.”