Mavericks practicing with hope for a spot

Spring break can wait.

Three days after thinking the season was over, the Mesa State College men’s basketball team was back on the court Friday afternoon.

The players got a text message from the coaching staff Wednesday, summoning them to a meeting Thursday afternoon.

Before that meeting Thursday, coach Jim Heaps quietly said, “You know, I think we’ve still got a shot.”

After losing to CSU-Pueblo in the quarterfinals of the RMAC Shootout on Tuesday, the Mavericks said their good-byes to their teammates.

Ranked No. 7 in the Central Region poll, they figured they would drop out of the top eight.

Then New Mexico Highlands, No. 8 in the region, lost to Colorado Christian. On Wednesday, Augustana (S.D.), the No. 9 team, was outsted by St. Cloud State in the first round of the Northern Sun Conference tournament.

Northern State, which moved to No. 10 last week, upset top-ranked Southwest Minnesota State to move back into the playoff picture, but that still left one spot up for grabs.

“The way the coaches have been looking at things and what’s going on, we’re still in the top eight in our minds,” senior center Kurt Bangle said Friday after a short workout. “Of course, we don’t know what’s going to happen with the RMAC tournament and what Coach was saying, as long as CSU-Pueblo or Christian doesn’t win, we’ve got a really good shot at making it.”

The Mavs cleared two hurdles Friday when Metro State beat CSU-Pueblo in the RMAC Shootout semifinals 76-65 and Fort Lewis beat Colorado Christian 92-79 to keep Mesa State in the regional picture.

“It’s one of those things you always have in the back of your mind,” senior guard Ryan Mathews said. “It might be there and you’re expecting it, but you don’t want to get your hopes up and be disappointed.”

Heaps had the Mavs running and shooting to keep them in shape, and plans another workout today. Sunday night, they’ll get together to hear their fate.

“We thought our hopes were gone,” Bangle said. “I thought my career was over. I’ve been sending out resumes trying to find a job. Honestly, I thought we were done, this is it. We had our hugs and good-byes in the locker room. We’ve got hope right now. We’ve been through the down side. Right now we’re just thankful.”

And those spring break plans?

“I think some guys had some major plans that they’ll have to change, but they don’t care,”

Bangle said. “Our spring break plans might be a trip to Minnesota. That would be great.”


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