CMU women draw rival Fort Lewis in regional opener
Here they go again.
A smattering of applause and smiles greeted the announcement Sunday night that Colorado Mesa University was the No. 1 seed and would host the women’s NCAA Division II South Central Regional basketball tournament.
That was no surprise to the Mavericks, who won the regular-season and RMAC Shootout championships and were ranked No. 1 in the South Central Region all season.
Then they heard: “The Mavericks will face Fort Lewis in the first round.”
A mixture of groans and giggles followed.
It will be the fourth time the rivals have played this season — and the third time in three weeks, a span of five games for the Mavericks (28-1), four for the Skyhawks (18-10).
Their most recent meeting was Friday in the RMAC Shootout semifinals, which the Mavericks won 73-65, and a game the Skyhawks hoped wasn’t their last of the season.
After that game, Fort Lewis coach Jason Flores said he hoped that playing the No. 1 team in the region three times would help his team’s cause when it came down to the final eight teams, and apparently, it did.
The Skyhawks held onto the No. 8 spot when the regional ranking committee didn’t move No. 9 West Texas A&M up after it lost to No. 2 Midwestern State (Texas) at the buzzer in overtime in the Lone Star Conference title game.
Three teams from Colorado and five from Texas made the final field.
“We’re going to have to figure out a way to overcome (the challenge CMU presents),” Flores told the Durango Herald on Sunday night. “Now it’s just a more pressure situation I think for them than for us. And hopefully we take that and go in there and play a great game.”
Midwestern State (24-5) is the No. 2 seed and plays No. 7 Tarleton State (19-9), with St. Mary’s (22-6) drawing the No. 3 seed and facing No. 6 Metro State (20-9). The University of Texas-Permian Basin (20-7) is No. 4 and plays No. 5 Abilene Christian (21-6).
Mesa and Fort Lewis play at 6 p.m. Friday in the third quarterfinal of the day. The semifinals are Saturday evening, with the championship game at 7 p.m. Monday.
“You’ve just got to prepare for anything,” junior point guard Christen Lopez said. “We beat them once before … well, three times before, but now that it’s in the regional tournament, it’s completely different. It’s fair game. We’ve got to prepare like we normally do.”
Several of the Mavs just shook their heads when they saw the pairings, but, coach Taylor Wagner reminded them, nothing from here on out is going to be easy. After he told them of today’s practice plan, a typical Monday of shooting and some running, he grinned.
“We know our opponent very well,” he said. “Plan on watching film … we’ll let you know afterwards if we are.”
The good thing is, Wagner said, is he won’t have to scramble to find game film. It’s a matter of a couple of mouse clicks on his computer or loading a DVD.
“A lot of teams right now are probably panicking getting film,” he said. “We know our opponent and what they like to do, so that might be a blessing in disguise. Just go out and play. We’re going to have to play good, whether it’s Fort Lewis or someone else. I’m OK. They’re a worthy opponent and I feel they deserved to get in.”
That the Mavs play a rivalry game in the first round just makes it that much more motivation.
“You’re playing in the NCAAs and again, you’re playing good teams,” he said. “Playing them in a short turnaround, it is what it is.
“We know them, they know us and I don’t think we’ve played a complete game against them. We can get better and that’s one positive we can look at and take from. We can play a whole lot better and there can be an even better outcome than the three previous games.”
The players knew there was a good possibility they’d be facing Fort Lewis again, and, junior post Hanna Bowden said, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side of the floor.
“If it’s hard to get prepared for this,” she said, “you must not be alive.”