Rising to the occasion
Burgon's strong play lifts Mavs past Pueblo
PUEBLO — On Tuesday, Colton Burgon earned first-team all-Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference honors.
Later Tuesday night, the Mavericks senior post man showed why.
Burgon scored a team-high 21 points, including 11 in a five-minute stretch of the second half, to lift Colorado Mesa to a 74-65 win over CSU-Pueblo in the opening round of the 2013 RMAC Shootout.
The Mavs (18-9) will play at No. 1 Metro State on Friday night in the semifinals.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak and gave the Mavs a jolt of confidence.
“We haven’t played well lately, and we needed a game like this,” Burgon said. “We seemed to do things better on both ends of the court tonight.”
The ThunderWolves took a 29-28 lead three minutes into the second half. Burgon then took over. He scored 11 points, all because of his work in the low post, to give the Mavs a comfortable lead for most of the second half.
“They weren’t doubling me (defensively), and I’m pretty confident when I have to go one-on-one like that,” Burgon said. “I kind of took offense that they weren’t doubling me, so I tried to take over.”
Jeff Hart added 20 points and Paul Walter added 11 for the Mavs. Mike Melillo grabbed 12 rebounds as Mesa held a decided edge, 45-28, on the glass.
“For whatever reason, we play better on the road,” Mesa head coach Jim Heaps said. “Maybe we’re more relaxed. I don’t know. But we started strong, and our seniors took over and made sure we did the things we needed to do.”
It was the Mavs’ second win over the ThunderWolves (15-14) on the Massari Arena floor this season.
“It wasn’t so much what they did offensively. It was that we didn’t put the ball in the basket,” ThunderWolves head coach Ralph Turner said. “Basketball’s a pretty simple game: You have to play defense and get stops, and you have to put it in the hole at the other end.
“Our best shooters had rough nights. It happens. But that doesn’t diminish what this team has accomplished this season.”
Using a page right out of the ThunderWolves’ playbook, the Mavericks took a double-digit lead in the first half. They shot the ball well — 10 of 22 from the field, 3 of 6 from the 3-point line — and used solid screens to get players open. Seven different Mesa players scored early.
The Mavs also took advantage of a jittery CSU-Pueblo squad. The ThunderWolves didn’t score on back-to-back possessions until the 4:42 mark of the first half.
Mesa led by as many as 12 points in the first half before CSU-Pueblo made a run. Arden Dennis hit a 3-pointer, Jed Knafelc made good on a three-point play and then followed that up with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 22-20.
The teams traded baskets to end the half as the ThunderWolves were able to play themselves back into the game despite shooting 35 percent from the field. Mesa led 28-26 and killed CSU-Pueblo on the glass, 20-12.