Maverick women making most of chances in RMAC Shootout
Roger Walters isn’t playing the what-if game.
Sure, what if concussions hadn’t cost key players a total of 10 games this season?
What if Hillary Duncan hadn’t blown the ACL in her right knee right after recovering from a concussion?
What if Katrina Selsor hadn’t hyperextended her right knee and missed five games?
“We were tied for fifth, but just like every team could say, we were a free throw from being fourth,” the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball coach said Monday before hopping on a bus bound for Denver and tonight’s first round of the RMAC Shootout against top-seeded Metro State.
“We could have separated ourselves from the pack by getting an extra offensive rebound or making an extra layup.
“That’s why the kids have to understand every possession is crucial. It’s the same message we’ve been preaching for 17 years. Special groups understand it.”
When the Mavericks (13-13) don’t turn the ball over, they’ve played well. The past two weeks, they’ve gone from being a team that shoots 60 percent at the free-throw line to shooting 72, 77 and 81 percent in their past three games, winning two of three.
And like every year, there are games that got away. There’s the four-point loss at Colorado Mines the night Selsor was injured, a three-point loss to Colorado Christian the next night, and after a forgettable home weekend against Regis and Metro State, an overtime loss at Nebraska-Kearney, forced when CMU gave up a tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“It’s been a tale of three seasons,” Walters said. “We started out 7-3 and then we go 0-6 and then finished 5-1. It’s been one like I haven’t ever seen and I hope we can finish by playing well.
“We gave ourselves a chance to be in the playoffs and that’s where we want to be. It doesn’t matter whether we play the No. 1 seed in the quarters, semis or championship; you’re going to face good teams here on out.”
After going 1-9 from Dec. 30 until Feb. 4, the Mavericks have been in playoff mode all month.
“It’s been a grind,” Walters said. “Seasons are a grind, but they should be excited to play. They might feel (mentally drained) but we have to play with a bunch of energy and execute really well.”
The Mavericks left early Monday so they could get an extra practice at Metro’s Auraria Campus gym. Metro (24-2), ranked seventh in the nation last week and No. 2 in the region, hasn’t played against Mesa’s big lineup, but the Roadrunners are one of the bigger teams in the RMAC, led by 6-foot-2 senior Caley Dow.
“The Dow kid gives us fits, but they’re so explosive,” Walters said. “The thing that separates them from a lot of teams is their point guard (Jasmine Cervantes). I think they have one of the top two point guards in the conference.
“Cervantes is just a special kid. She’s really strong and athletic; they don’t need to give each other a lot of help defensively and that makes them tough.”
“They’re plus-14 in rebounding margin and that’s why you have to shoot the ball well against them, because you don’t get a lot of chances.”
Typically, teams are allowed to be a little more physical in the playoffs. That should help the Mavericks, who have gotten more aggressive on the boards since going to a three-post lineup in late January.
“We have to play a physical style with this group because they are bigger at every position basically than we are. It can be done,” Walters said. “When it comes to no tomorrows, it’s just gotta be done.”