The glass cleaners

Rebounding helps Mavs top Western

Mike Melillo squeezes between Western State’s Joseph Charles, left, and George Berling to score two of his 13 points Saturday night in Colorado Mesa’s 
67-49 victory over the Mountaineers at Brownson Arena. Melillo added five rebounds as the Mavs outrebounded Western State 46-29 to win their fifth straight game.

Charles Joseph is 6-foot-8 and a solid 300 pounds.

If the Western State Colorado University center gets the ball deep in the paint, there’s no getting him out of there.

And for the most part Saturday night, the Colorado Mesa University post players did their part. But here’s the catch: If Joseph missed (and he missed six of the 11 shots he took), the post players were usually too far under the basket to rebound.

Enter Paul Walter. The Mavericks’ 6-4 forward crashed in from the wing and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to help CMU knock off Western 67-49 and run their winning streak to five games.

“He’s big,” said Chandler Burgon, who made his return from shoulder surgery and helped do the work against Joseph, who finished with 11 points. “You try to body him, but you know he’s going to get position. That’s the hard thing. We get pushed so far underneath, if he misses it, we had to have help-side rebounders, and luckily we did. Paul and Mike Melillo got some big rebounds.”

As they’ve done the past three games especially, the Mavericks’ shot selection was outstanding, running when they had the chance, but executing the offense when the break wasn’t available.

“I thought it was very workmanlike,” coach Jim Heaps said. “I thought we just ground it out. We didn’t shoot an especially high percentage (42.4), and Colton (Burgon) didn’t play as well as he’s been playing, but we took good shots the whole time, and I thought we defended pretty consistently, and really defended well the second half.”

The Mountaineers (7-8, 6-5 RMAC) didn’t score for the first four minutes of the second half, and the Mavericks (12-3, 9-2) stretched their 10-point lead to 16, 39-23.

A 17-10 Western run pulled the Mountaineers to within nine, 49-40, when Joseph scored inside with 8:20 to play, and with 7:23 remaining, it was a six-point game, 50-44.

Heaps took a timeout, and the Mavericks — Jeff Hart in particular — responded. He grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, then hit a driving layup from the wing. Colton Burgon drew an offensive foul when Jon Cooke knocked him down on a screen as the Mountaineers were hitting a deep 3-pointer, which was waved off.

Another offensive rebound and bucket for Hart, then his 3 off a screen at the top of the key gave the Mavericks a 59-46 lead with 4:22 to play.

“After that timeout our kids did a really nice job and went on a run right away and pushed it right back up,” Heaps said. “That was just our kids, man, they guarded and went back out and did what we wanted to do.”

Hart finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, with Melillo scoring 13 points and adding five more boards.

Mesa outrebounded Western 46-29 and had 10 more offensive rebounds (18-8) and scored 23 second-chance points.

Walter, a transfer from Clackamas (Ore.) Community College, said the Mavs’ system now makes sense. He scored nine points, had three assists and blocked two shots.

“The last three or four games I feel offensively I’m helping the team more,” he said. “It’s not always actually by shooting, it’s really understanding our offense and the principles of it. It’s a fun, fun thing to do when everything’s clicking like it has been. This is the most fun I’ve had playing basketball in my life.”

And with the post players having their hands full with Joseph, everything opened up for the wings to rebound.

“I see them working that hard, and that’s inspiring for me to go help them out,” he said. “They’re getting pushed by a big, strong, physical guy, and I see them working hard and blocking him out. There’s no reason I wouldn’t go grab (rebounds) for them.”


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