Pressure too much for Mavs on basketball court

PUEBLO — Reality set in Saturday night for the Mesa State College men’s basketball team.

For two months, the Mavericks have focused only on the game at hand.

Suddenly, the game at hand meant everything.

“You could tell we were pressing,” Mesa State coach Jim Heaps said after the Mavericks lost 65-60 at CSU-Pueblo, the RMAC West title falling by the wayside. “All of a sudden, holy crap, we can win it. Before it was like, we’ve just got to play. All of a sudden, there was a chance.

“That’s like having the Super Bowl and then the next day you’ve got to play one more game to win it. It took so much energy and so much effort and guts to win last night and then turn around and play for it the next night. We just didn’t have any room for error.”

The Mavericks (16-11, 13-6 RMAC) will host a first-round RMAC Shootout game Tuesday night, likely at 7 p.m.

New Mexico Highlands downed Western State 84-77 on Saturday to win the West title by one game. The Mavs left Pueblo figuring they will be the No. 4 seed, losing a tiebreaker with Fort Lewis.

“If Highlands wins, I think we’re four and it could be these guys again,” Heaps said of facing the ThunderWolves in the first round of the playoffs.

The RMAC office had not released pairings as of 10:50 p.m.

Mesa State fell victim to an off shooting night by too many guys.

“We just couldn’t hit any jump shots tonight and we kind of settled for jump shots,” Heaps said.

“Kurt (Bangle) was in foul trouble, so he couldn’t play many minutes and we didn’t have any other scoring. They just hit more jump shots.”

Bangle fouled out with 6:46 to play after scoring eight points.

The ThunderWolves hit eight 3-pointers in the first half and didn’t let the Mavericks get on any scoring runs.

“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” Heaps said. “It’s a one-point game, we’re up one, down one, for three or four possessions. We could never get any kind of rhythm going and they score and opened it up just enough.”

Jase Herl scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half, but leading scorer Ryan Mathews finished with only six points and was shut out in the second half.

Teams have taken Mathews out of the equation before, but the Mavs always had someone else pick up the slack. That didn’t happen Saturday.

Jake Swartzendruber had nine points, all in the first half, when the Mavericks held a one-point lead, 34-33, after Brian Kenshalo hit a 3. Jordan Surratt answered with a 3 of his own just before the horn.

That shot was a sign of things to come — the Mavs could never get any breathing room.
Pueblo (14-13, 11-8) got 18 points from Rome Smith and 10 each from reserves Marc Williams and Roman Van Allen.

“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,” Heaps said. “The second season starts now. We can still achieve our goals.”


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