Final weekend a big one for Mesa basketball teams
Maybe it was practicing in the Hamilton Recreation Center. Maybe it was the gorgeous spring’s-on-its-way day. Maybe it was a hint of distraction waiting for the South Central Region rankings to be released in the middle of practice.
Wednesday was not the greatest practice for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team, which jumped into the No. 1 spot in the South Central Region ahead of West Texas A&M.
“I thought (Tuesday) we practiced really good,” CMU coach Taylor Wagner said. “It seems like any time we come into the Rec it changes because the walls are different.”
The main floor at Brownson was being set up for this weekend’s RMAC/West Super Region wrestling tournament, so the basketball teams went next door.
“We’ve got to finish it off the right way,” Wagner said. “We’ve got to make sure we go out and play hard. I was just telling them in the huddle I shouldn’t be coaching effort right now. That should be there.
“The girls who were there last year need to lead, and we’ve got girls who are new this year who have played in big games, and they can step up and lead as well. They know what it takes to get there. It’s not just showing up and getting a trophy. It’s a lot of hard work, and that’s the preparation all week leading up to the games.”
Wagner said part of an occasional bad practice is that the Mavericks are eager to get to the postseason, although they can achieve something no other team has done at CMU — go undefeated through the regular season.
The Mavericks (24-0, 20-0 RMAC) need two wins to reach that, at Adams State (9-16, 5-15) on Friday and at Fort Lewis (14-10, 11-9) on Saturday.
“I haven’t even thought about it, but that would be great and another feather in our cap,” Wagner said. “If we can do that, we’ll accomplish goals later down the road.”
The Grizzlies’ season will end this weekend, but the Skyhawks are fighting to get into the regional tournament again. Fort Lewis is ranked No. 10, with the top eight teams in the final poll on March 9 advancing. Conference tournament champions from the RMAC, Lone Star and Heartland conferences receive automatic bids, with five at-large teams.
“Adams State’s not gonna quit. They want to play well, and they’re going to play hard,” Wagner said. “Fort Lewis wants to get into the regional, so they know how important it is and how big it would be if they would beat us. They’d probably jump into that top eight, so it’ll be a big game for us. We need to approach it the right way and get after it.”
The Mavericks’ men’s team clinched a spot in the RMAC tournament with its win over Western State last weekend.
By winning five of their past six games, the Mavs (13-11, 11-9) not only vaulted into the top eight in the conference, but they can to move up to No. 4 and host a first-round playoff game March 4, depending on how the other games shake out.
The conference office will run any and all tiebreaker scenarios once all of the games are over Saturday night and then release the pairings.
Metro State (23-1, 20-0 RMAC), which is still No. 2 in the region behind Tarleton (Texas) State, is the No. 1 seed in the RMAC Shootout. Colorado School of Mines (18-3 RMAC) and CU-Colorado Springs (15-5) are second and third, respectively, but everything else is up for grabs.
If Colorado Christian (13-8) beats Mines on Saturday, the Mavs can’t move into the No. 4 spot even with wins at Adams State (11-9) and Fort Lewis (12-8).
However, if Mesa beats Adams State on Friday and the Orediggers win at Christian, the Mesa-Fort Lewis game, always a donnybrook, could be a winner-plays-at-home game. The Mavericks won the first meeting against both teams at Brownson Arena in late December.
CSU-Pueblo (12-8) is also in the thick of the race, playing at home against Metro on Friday and hosting Regis (4-16) on Saturday.
“I’ve never seen it like that,” CMU men’s coach Andy Shantz said. “We’re going into the last weekend, and we could host or be eighth, or anywhere in between. That makes it exciting, why you want to play college basketball. You play good games in late February and early March, and we’ve put ourselves in position to do that now.”
Shantz likes the way the Mavericks are playing on both ends of the floor right now, and he credits his club with sticking together during a 1-7 stretch in January.
“We’ll go out and play hard and play well this weekend,” Shantz said, “and the RMAC will tell us where we’re playing ... hopefully at home.”