Mesa State men’s basketball team fails to get spot in Central Region

The happy banter stopped as the brackets started popping up on the big screen.

And when it came around to the Central Region, the Mesa State College men’s basketball team was silent Sunday evening as the teams started sliding into place.

No. 1: Southwest Minnesota State

No. 8: Northern State

No. 4: Mankato State

No. 5: Fort Lewis

No. 3: Metro State

No. 6: Winona State

No. 7 ... last chance ... Augustana

No. 2: St. Cloud State

Head coach Jim Heaps quietly got out of his seat, walked across the room and flipped on the lights, then turned off the computer.

The season was officially over.

“Sorry, fellas,” Heaps told the somber players. “I told you I’ve been doing this a long time. A lot of it comes down to politics, but I have no clue how we go from seven to nine and the teams above us both lose also. I’m at a loss. ...

“I think you deserved it. It doesn’t change anything about that. I guess we start getting ready for next year. I’m sorry. Have a good spring break.”

The Northern Sun landed six teams in the eight-team regional tournament, bumping two RMAC teams that lost in the first round of the conference tournament.

Mesa State was ranked seventh in the region last week, but dropped to ninth after losing to CSU-Pueblo at home in the first round of the RMAC Shootout.

New Mexico Highlands, which was No. 8, fell out of the picture after losing at home to Colorado Christian.

Northern State, which had dropped to No. 10 last week, upset top-seeded Southwest Minnesota in the first round of the Northern Sun tournament before losing to Minnesota State in overtime in the semifinals. St. Cloud won the tournament.

Augustana, though, lost to St. Cloud State in the first round and still moved up from No. 9 to No. 7.

Augustana finished sixth and Northern State seventh in the Northern Sun regular-season standings. Mesa State tied for second in the RMAC West Division and tied with Fort Lewis for the third-best record overall behind Metro State and New Mexico Highlands.

In the women’s tournament at Mankato, Minn., Fort Lewis is the No. 2 seed, Nebraska-Kearney No. 4 and CSU-Pueblo No. 6.

Had the Mavs beaten CSU-Pueblo at Brownson Arena last week in the men’s RMAC quarterfinals, they would have been a shoo-in for the regional.

“We needed to take care of business. If we just did that and beat Pueblo, we wouldn’t be talking about this right now,” junior guard Jase Herl said.

“We just have to come back and work our butts off after spring break. We’ll learn from this and this will make us want it even more because we were that close.”


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