Mavs clinch Shootout berth
It was hard not to notice the half-dozen Clay Kame face posters in the crowd Saturday night at Brownson Arena.
One of them was attached to a life-sized poster of Peyton Manning’s body.
“Those are just my roommates,” Kame said with a smile. “Being local, I have those friends and ties. That was awesome.”
The posters were one part of the memorable night for Kame and fellow Colorado Mesa senior Mac Alexander, who were recognized in front of 1,585 fans in their final home men’s basketball game.
They will also remember winning the game, an 85-63 victory over rival Western State Colorado University, to clinch an RMAC Shootout berth.
“It’s a great experience being a senior, but we knew what was at stake in league play,” Kame said. “We’ve been talking all week (about clinching a RMAC tournament berth).
“I think we all came out with a better focus and understanding that our defense is going to win us games. They hit some tough shots, but our defense won us this game.”
The Mavericks (12-11, 10-9 RMAC) are tied for seventh place with Adams State and could move as high as fourth if they win their final two regular season games next weekend at Adams State and Fort Lewis. The top four teams in the RMAC will host the first round of the conference tournament.
“If you asked me a month ago, when we were struggling a little bit, I didn’t know (if we would make it),” CMU coach Andy Shantz said. “Really, it’s a testament to the type of character and young men we have in our locker room.”
Six players scored in double figures for the Mavericks. Joe Kiely led the way with 13 points and seven assists.
Landon Vermeer scored 12, Jon Orr and Ryan Stephan each had 11. Kame and Carlos Perez each had 10. Alexander hit a 3-pointer late to the delight of the crowd.
The Mavericks raced to a fast start, scoring on their first seven possessions for a 15-5 lead. Kiely sparked the run with a pair of layups and a 3-pointer.
The Mountaineers (3-21, 3-17 RMAC) didn’t panic, chipping away at the lead. They hit three 3-pointers while shutting out Mesa for a seven-minute stretch during an 11-2 run.
Jordan Adams hit another Western 3-pointer to tie the game 25-25 before the Mavericks closed the first half with an 11-4 run.
Mesa scored putbacks on back-to-back possessions during the run. The Mavs led 36-29 at halftime.
“I didn’t think we were bad defensively in the first half,” Shantz said. “I thought they hit some tough shots. When teams that generally don’t shoot the ball well, sometimes it tough to do in the second half.
“I thought we did a good job on just about everybody but Jordan Adams. The shots he was hitting were some tough shots.”
Adams led the Mountaineers with 24 points. Mason Biddle added 13.
Mesa limited Western to 45 percent shooting from the floor, including 37 percent from the 3-point line. The Mountaineers shot 41.9 percent in the second half.
“The key for us was not letting them feel comfortable,” Shantz said. “It’s a rhythm thing.”
Mesa started to slowly pull away in the second half, pushing its lead to 13 with 10:53 left. The Mavs continued to add to it with solid defense and finished the game with their largest lead.