Mortensen, Markham and Flohr lift Mesa to win
It started out reminiscent of their meeting two weeks ago in Gunnison.
Stubborn defense, shots clanging off the rim, turnovers and bodies crashing on the floor, and a 9-0 lead six minutes in.
And although Tuesday night’s men’s RMAC West Division basketball game ended up with a Mesa State victory, this one was much closer, 64-61, than the Mavericks’ 61-39 win in the first go-round.
With Western State (12-10 9-5 RMAC) refusing to let Ryan Mathews be the determining factor, other Mavericks took their cue.
“They chased him all over the place with good kids,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said. “Any time we did get a screen they just switched. If you want to take somebody out of the game, you can. I thought Ryan was great about not forcing things, taking what was there.”
Mesa State (12-10, 9-5) got 13 points from point guards Aaron Markham and Ryan Mortensen, more than double their combined average.
“They all know (Mathews) is our best scorer,” said Mortensen, who scored 10 points. “At their place they backed off me and Aaron and we both said before the game, be ready to shoot it.
They don’t even guard us. It’s kind of embarrassing. We really can shoot it.”
Sean Flohr hit all four of his 3-point attempts, three crucial ones in the final 61/2 minutes, and led the way with 17 points, and Jase Herl hit 11 of 12 free throws by taking a book out of Mathews’ game and attacking from all angles and getting to the line.
It was a different lineup than one would expect, with Mathews on the bench and Mortensen getting the majority of the minutes instead of Markham, the starter, but it worked.
“That’s what we talk about, it’s got to be no concern for playing time, stats, it’s going to be a different kid every night,” Heaps said. “It’s got to be total commitment that it doesn’t matter other than getting that W on the board and going on.”
Western’s outside shooters got hot early, with Justin Avalos hitting three 3-pointers in the first half, but after that, nothing would fall for him. So the Mountaineers used their size to grab 15 offensive rebounds to give them second chances, and their big men, Allen McFarland (16 points) and Mike Bogar (14) kept them in the game.
Bogar bulled inside for a baby hook with 8:07 to play for a 50-45 Western State lead, but Kurt Bangle matched him with a baby hook of his own and Herl hit a couple of free throws.
Mortensen swiped a pass and fed to Jake Swartzendruber, who, as he drove to the basket, bobbled the ball in midair but regained control enough to get the shot up and in for a 51-50 lead with 6:47 left.
A missed jumper on the other end ended up being grabbed by Mortensen, who triggered another break, this time with Flohr trailing for a 3 from the top of the key.
A running layup by Swartzendruber gave the Mavs a six-point lead before Flohr hit another 3 from the wing.
Western State cut it to five, 59-54, and the Mavericks started to work the clock on offense.
Mortensen had the ball on the wing and the Western bench called out “shooter!” He passed to Carter. “Shooter!”
Carter found Flohr in the corner, and before anyone could say anything, the junior buried another 3 for a 62-54 lead.
“One more pass,” Heaps said. “What a great shot. Every time Sean gets going, everybody does a great job of making one more pass, and he cuts so well, he makes our offense better.”
Flohr was a little surprised to see the Mountaineers jump into a zone on that possession, but he was more than happy to take the shot.
“They were trailing me the whole game,” he said.
“Psychologically, if the team starts seeing shots go in, everyone else is more apt to hit shots, so once I started hitting some, everyone else started playing with a little more swagger and hitting shots.”