A big victory
Stephan, Mesa hand 'Hawks a rare lopsided rivalry loss
Ryan Stephan has looked forward to playing Fort Lewis ever since the Skyhawks played Metro State for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship last spring.
The Mavericks overcame some early excitement Friday night at Brownson Arena to hand Fort Lewis one of its worst losses in the long rivalry with a 93-67 victory.
“We were 0-2 against Fort Lewis last year,” Stephan said. “We watched them play Metro for the RMAC championship. It was real discouraging. We felt like we could’ve been that team. We wanted them bad.
“I think we were a little too over-hyped in the first half. I know they were ranked at one point, but it feels great to beat a team that was picked over you in the early RMAC standings.”
The last time Mesa scored 90 or more points was Feb. 24, 2012, a 98-92 loss to Adams State in Alamosa.
Stephan scored 21 points and grabbed a season-high 13 rebounds to lead the Mavericks (6-3, 4-1 RMAC). Joe Kiely and Mike Melillo each had a season-high 18 points. Kiely added six assists — all in the second half — and Melillo had nine rebounds.
Kiely’s ability to break down the Fort Lewis press was instrumental in leading the Mavericks.
“Joe Kiely did a fantastic job,” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “He’s outstanding with the ball. He’s probably the fastest player we’ve ever had in the program. He made good decisions.”
Kiely, only had one turnover, credited his teammates.
“Once they started pressing, it wasn’t too hard to beat because it was man-to-man,” Kiely said. “Everybody on our team trusted me with the ball and set open screens for me. It wasn’t that hard to beat.”
While Kiely was beating the Fort Lewis defense, Stephan, Melillo and the Mavs were shutting down the top two scorers in the RMAC — Nick Tomsick and Alex Herrera.
Mesa limited Herrera and Tomsick to 23 total points. Tomsick was averaging 22.7 and Herrera 21.9 coming into the game. The Skyhawks, who shoot 41.8 percent from the field as a team, shot 38.2 percent against the Mavericks.
“Those kids are scoring 45, 46 points a game, so to hold them to that, our guys did a great job,” Shantz said. “Obviously we were focused on those two coming in. We defended well, but they missed some shots, too. At least, what I was pleased with was the execution part of it.”
Melillo limited Tomsick to 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting, including 3 of 9 from the 3-point line.
Stephan limited Herrera to eight points and five rebounds.
“Ryan played great tonight,” Shantz said. “We’ve talked about him skill-wise and how talented he can be. He’s starting to show signs of that.”
Fort Lewis (5-3, 2-2 RMAC) went on an 11-0 run midway through the first half, scoring on four consecutive possessions for a 21-12 lead.
Mike Matthews got Fort Lewis going with a steal and dunk, and Will Morse and Lucas Archuleta hit 3-pointers during the run.
After a timeout, Mesa responded with an 18-4 run for a 34-27 lead. The Mavericks led 36-31 at halftime. Stephan scored nine points in the run, including his first 3-pointer of the season.
“At halftime, I said, ‘Guys, they can go on a 10-2 run on you in a heartbeat,’ ” Shantz said. “I’ve seen it before, in person, right there in the front row. They shoot the ball well. Our guys kept executing. We didn’t back off. We stayed aggressive and I thought that was the key.”
Mesa opened the second half with a 13-3 run to push the lead to 49-34. Melillo, who only took one shot in the first half, scored eight points in the run.
Fort Lewis cut the Mavs’ lead to five midway through the second half, but couldn’t get any closer. Mesa went to the free-throw line eight times the rest of the way, making 14 of 17.
Nate Hawley, a redshirt freshman from Montrose, scored the first points of his collegiate career with a 3-pointer with 56 seconds left.