Kiely’s layup at buzzer lifts Mesa to win

Colorado Mesa men’s basketball coach Andy Shantz had a couple of timeouts left, but he didn’t need them.

Trailing by one point Friday night, he entrusted point guard Joe Kiely to go the length of the court with four seconds left, and Kiely delivered a buzzer-beating layup and an 83-82 victory over the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs at Brownson Arena. The win snapped a three-game losing streak.

“Coach told me if they score, to go as fast as I could to the bucket, and that’s what I did,” Kiely said. “It’s really exciting right now. I haven’t actually hit a buzzer-beater right at the buzzer, so it’s definitely the top.”

Shantz figured the Mavericks would have a better chance to score without a timeout.

“We had timeouts left, but Joe’s one of the fastest players in the league,” Shantz said. “He’s really good with the ball and makes great decisions. He was finishing tonight. If you call timeout, they can set their defense. When you have someone like Joe, who can put the ball on the floor and attack, especially with five seconds left, you can get them on their heels.”

Kiely struggled finishing Thursday night, going 0-for-10 from the floor and scoring one point in a loss to CSU-Pueblo.

“After games like that, it’s a new day and on to the next one,” Kiely said. “It mostly had to do with energy. We didn’t have any energy (Thursday) night. Today, our plan was to come out with energy, and that’s what we did.

“When we hustle and work harder than the other team, that builds our confidence. From there, we know we can win the game.”

Kiely finished with 14 points and tied a season high with seven assists.

All five starters scored in double figures for the Mavericks. Ryan Stephan scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Jon Orr had 12 points, Landon Vermeer 11 and Mike Melillo had 10.

“We knew we needed to come together in a big way,” Stephan said. “We knew they are a great team. It feels so good, especially to win that way on a buzzer beater, but the win was most important. I can’t describe it.”

The Mavericks (8-6, 6-4 RMAC) attacked the basket with 20 assists on 27 baskets. When they didn’t make shots from the floor, they went to the free-throw line, making 23 free throws on 34 attempts (67.6 percent).

Colorado Mesa had to grind, and somewhere along the line the Mavs found another gear.

“I said, ‘Fellas, we need to find a way to feed off each other and feed on energy,’ ” Shantz said. “We happen to have a lot of flatliner-type kids. They play really hard, but they’re not very emotional. It’s hard to get them to talk. They really do play hard, but basketball sometimes is an emotional game, and you need to play with emotion. When you get some kids to do that, it pours over to the other kids.

“Win or lose, let’s enjoy it. I didn’t feel like any of our guys really enjoyed playing basketball (Thursday) night. It was nice to see us not only address it, but carry it over.”

The Mavericks got off to a good start, taking a 12-4 lead. Stephan scored 10 of those 12 points and had 15 points at halftime.

The Mountain Lions (9-4, 6-3 RMAC) answered with a 10-2 run to even the score, but Mesa went on a 13-5 run for a 27-19 lead.

UCCS came back with a 15-2 run, including three 3-pointers for a 34-29 lead. The Mountain Lions led 42-38 at the half.

“That’s basketball,” Shantz said. “You’ve got to weather the storm. The Derrick White kid is one of the top three players in the league with his size and athleticism. He is a tough matchup. You’ve got to limit his touches.”

UCCS pushed its lead to 10 points early in the second half before Mesa went on a 10-4 run to get within four. The run included a Melillo dunk assisted by Vermeer on a fast break.

“The dunk was definitely a momentum changer,” Kiely said. “Mike had a nice dunk. The crowd was really good at the end of the game. It was awesome.”

The Mavs tied it 74-74 with 4:20 left when Vermeer assisted Orr after Vermeer saved a loose ball from going out of bounds.

White, who scored 26 points, converted on the next two possessions.

Mesa took the lead for the first time since the first half when Stephan scored on a layup with 1:25 left, but UCCS answered and took the lead with four seconds left, forcing Kiely’s heroics.


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