Mesa State men get opportunity to avenge loss to CSU-Pueblo

Jim Heaps stood alone in the hallway outside the visitors’ locker room Saturday night, bent over, his hands on his knees.

After a few moments, he went in and addressed the Mesa State College men’s basketball team, which had just seen its dream of winning the RMAC West Division title slip away in a 65-60 loss at CSU-Pueblo.

“I feel bad about them not winning the West title, but we didn’t play well enough to win,” Heaps said.

As Heaps and the Mavericks filed out of Massari Arena for the long drive home, CSU-Pueblo coach Patrick Eberhart and his staff entered the arena. After a quick conversation, undoubtedly about seedings and pairings, the coaches went their own way.

Eberhart headed to the scorers table,where school officials and reporters were awaiting the pairings for the first round of the RMAC Shootout.

“Does Mesa win the tiebreaker over Fort Lewis? Anybody hear a Highlands score yet? Did Kearney beat Mines?”

Finally, the tiebreakers were broken and the pairings released.

The Mavericks (16-11) received the No. 4 seed and host CSU-Pueblo at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Brownson Arena.

New Mexico Highlands downed Western State on Saturday night to win the West title and earn the No. 2 seed in the tournament. The Cowboys (20-7) completed the biggest turnaround in NCAA basketball history, winning 19 more games this season than they did all of last season, when they went 1-25.

The Cowboys host Colorado Christian on Tuesday. Top-seeded Metro State (24-3) is home against CU-Colorado Springs (10-17), with that winner playing either Mesa State or CSU-Pueblo in the semifinals at 4 p.m. on Friday at the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo.

Fort Lewis (22-8) slipped past Mesa State into the No. 3 seed and plays Western State (14-13) in Durango. That winner plays either Highlands or Christian.

The conference tournament championship game is at 8 p.m. on Saturday, with the winner receiving an automatic berth to the Central Region tournament.

In the women’s tournament, Fort Lewis received the No. 1 seed and plays Western State, with
Metro State playing at CSU-Pueblo in the top half of the bracket.

In the bottom half, Regis is at Colorado School of Mines and Adams State is at Nebraska-Kearney, the No. 2 seed.

Heaps quickly addressed his players’ emotions in an effort to get them ready for the rematch with the ThunderWolves.

“I told the guys, ‘You’ve got to keep your heads up. You accomplished a lot the last two months as far as getting a home game in the tournament.’ We’ve achieved some goals we wanted.”

They still want that next goal, though, the conference title. Their slow start against the East Division didn’t help the Mavericks down the stretch.

They had to win every game to stay in the race.

“It took so much energy and effort and guts just to win that game (against Highlands) and turn right around and play (CSU-Pueblo on Saturday),” Heaps said. “We just didn’t have any room for error. We had to win out.”


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