Whatever it takes

Taylor Rock does the little things to help Mavericks

Taylor Rock, left, hasn’t been scoring a ton for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team, but she has contributed in other ways, like chasing down loose balls and taking charges. The Mavs play Fort Lewis tonight at 7:30 in the semifinals of the RMAC Shootout at Brownson Arena.



QUICKREAD

Colorado Mesa Mavericks

Coach: Taylor Wagner, 1st year

Record: 26-1, No. 4 USA Today/WBCA; No. 1 South Central Region

Season Recap: Immediately accepting the demands of their first-year coach during preseason workouts, the Mavericks won a school-record 18 straight games to open the season. They bring an eight-game winning streak into the Shootout semifinals. Led by their two senior co-captains, Kelsey Sigl and Katrina Selsor, and junior Sharaya Selsor, the Mavericks won the RMAC regular-season title by four games.

Leading Scorers: Kelsey Sigl, 18.5; Katrina Selsor 14.6; Sharaya Selsor 12.6

Leading Rebounders: Katrina Selsor, 8.4, Sigl, 6.8

Team Stats: Colorado Mesa scores 74.1 points per game and gives up 52.8. The Mavs shoot 45 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from the 3-point line and 76.7 percent from the free-throw line and hold teams to 34.6 percent shooting.

Shootout History: Mesa won the 2002 Shootout title and was the runner-up in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2001. The Mavericks lost in the first round in 2011 and 2012.

This ‘n’ That: The Mavericks are first in the RMAC and 19th in the nation in field-goal defense (34.6 percent), relying on getting stops and rebounding (a plus-9.4 rebound margin, 5th in NCAA) to trigger its offense. Mesa’s offense also leads the RMAC and is seventh nationally (45 percent). ... Bruna Deichmann, a senior transfer from Alaska-Anchorage, is one of the top reserves in the conference, averaging 9.5 points a game and giving the Mavericks an emotional spark off the bench. ... CMU’s 26 wins ties a school record (2002) and guarantees the Mavericks the best win-loss record in school history (previous best was 26-4, 2002). ... No. 4 national ranking is highest in school history, as is their No. 1 regional ranking.

Fort Lewis Skyhawks

Coach: Jason Flores, 1st year

Record: 18-9; No. 8 South Central Region

Season Recap: The Skyhawks struggled early, starting out 1-5 under Flores. After back-to-back losses to Metro State and Colorado Christian, though, Fort Lewis figured it out, reeling off nine straight wins and playing its way into the South Central Region picture before a 76-68 loss to CMU to end the regular season.

Leading Scorers: Ashley Kuchar, 12.5, Erika Richards, 11.6, Katerina Garcia, 11.2, Christie Groh, 11.

Leading Rebounders: Groh, 6.7, Richards, 5.7.

Team Stats: The Skyhawks score 69.4 points a game and shoot 69.4 percent from the field, 32.2 percent from the 3-point line and 70.4 percent from the free-throw line. Teams shoot 38.1 percent against FLC and score 63.5 points a game.

Shootout History: Fort Lewis won the title in 2011 and 2012 and was the runner-up in 2004 and 2010.

This ‘n’ That: Tonight’s game is the third this season between Fort Lewis and Colorado Mesa, and the second in less than one week. Mesa beat the Skyhawks 77-62 in Durango and 76-68 in Grand Junction. ... Flores was an assistant coach at Fort Lewis from 2000-2004, when Patty Patton Shearer was the head coach. Flores went to Nebraska-Omaha with Shearer when she became the head coach there, then replaced Mark Kellogg at Fort Lewis this past summer. ... Fort Lewis has reached the national playoffs the past five years, starting in 2007-08, and was the Division II national runner-up in 2010.

Metro State Roadrunners

Coach: Tanya Haave, 3rd year

Record: 20-8, No. 5 South Central Region

Season Recap: A tough early schedule had Metro 2-3 entering the RMAC season, and the ‘Runners were stunned in their conference opener by Regis. Once several players settled into their new roles, Metro won seven in a row before a one-point loss to Colorado Mines in Golden. The Roadrunners have won eight of their past 10 games, including a 20-point win in the quarterfinals over Mines.

Leading Scorers: Amy Nelson, 11.2; Emily Wood, 11.1.

Leading Rebounders: Kristin Valencia, 8.6; Nelson, 5.5.

Team Stats: Metro State scores 63.8 points a game, shooting 41.4 percent from the field, 34.7 percent from the 3-point line and 74.5 percent from the free-throw line. The Roadrunners hold opponents to 35.6 percent shooting and give up 54 points a game.

Shootout History: The Roadrunners won the Shootout in 1998 and 2005 and were the runners-up in 2011 and 2007.

This ‘n’ That: This is the fourth time Metro State and Colorado Christian have played this season, meeting in a nonconference game in Denver the opening weekend. The Roadrunners won all three. ... Haave picked up her 100th career win earlier this season and is 77-15 in three years at Metro. One of the regions in the girls Class 4A state tournament is named for Haave, a standout at Evergreen High School, then a three-year starter and an All-American at Tennessee, playing in three Final Fours for legendary coach Pat Summitt. ... In its past 22 games (18-4), Metro has given up an average of 50.8 points per game and is allowing teams to shoot 34.2 percent. ... Kristin and Brandi Valencia are twins, giving the Shootout two sets of sisters (Sharaya and Katrina Selsor of CMU).

Colorado Christian Cougars

Coach: Tim Hays, 5th year

Record: 17-10, unranked in South Central Region

Season Recap: After losing their leading scorer, Christina Whitelaw, after only three games, the Cougars turned to 5-foot-4 freshman guard Taylor Torres, who led them with a 14.6 scoring average. The Cougars are the only team to beat Colorado Mesa this season, a 77-73 win in Lakewood. It’s been an up-and-down season, with the Cougars winning no more than three games in a row until the end of the season. They’ve won their past four heading into tonight.

Leading Scorers: Taylor Torres, 14.6; Kayla Fakelman, 10.4.

Leading Rebounders: Mariah Metoyer, 5.9, Gillian Foster, 5.4, Fakelman, 5.3.

Team Stats: Colorado Christian is shooting 41.2 percent from the field, 33.4 percent from the 3-point line and 74.2 percent from the free-throw line. Teams shoot 40.2 percent against the Cougars and 30.7 from the 3.

Shootout History: CCU has never won the Shootout. The Cougars lost in the semifinals in 2010 and 2011 and in the first round in 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2008.

This ‘n’ That: Colorado Christian upset third-seeded CU-Colorado Springs 72-70 in Tuesday’s quarterfinals, the only team to win on the road. Torres hit a driving layup with nine seconds to play to break a 70-70 tie. ... Colorado Christian has broken the century mark in scoring three times this season, including 106 points in its season opener against Chadron State, a 106-68 nonconference win. However, the Cougars also lost to Chadron, 67-55, in Nebraska. They scored 104 and 103 points in back-to-back wins against Western New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands at the end of February. ... CCU is the reigning NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) Division I national champion. Christian colleges and universities in the NAIA and NCAA Division II compete in NCCAA Division I athletics. ... Whitelaw, a junior, was the RMAC player of the year and defensive player of the year in 2012 and was scoring 13 points a game this season when she was injured.



The lanky guard, ponytail flying behind her, sprints to the corner after a loose ball, flipping it behind her back into play before disappearing from view.

As she sprints back onto the court, the crowd roars its approval.

On another possession, she steps in on defense, planting herself between a player driving through the lane and the basket, taking the full force of the contact and hitting the deck. Her teammates rush to help her up, patting her on the head.

The offense hasn’t been there this season for Taylor Rock, but there’s no denying the 5-foot-10 junior guard is doing everything she can think of to contribute to the fourth-ranked Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team.

If that means taking a charge or her momentum carrying her off the court and into the Maverick head tunnel for a loose ball, so be it.

“You have to find something you can do to help the team,” Rock said. “Coach Wag (Taylor Wagner) always says the loose ball or taking a charge is our version of a dunk because none of us can dunk, but it gets the crowd into it and it helps get everything into a rhythm. It gives you momentum going back the other way.”

The Mavericks (26-1) will take all of the momentum they can get tonight against rival Fort Lewis (18-9) in the semifinals of the RMAC Shootout at Brownson Arena. Colorado Mesa plays the second semifinal at 7:30, after Metro State (20-9) plays Colorado Christian (17-10) at 5:30 p.m.

Mesa and Fort Lewis played a donnybrook less than a week ago at Brownson, with the Skyhawks leading until the final 13 minutes of the game.

Teeth were chipped (Christie Groh and Mary Brinton, said Fort Lewis coach Jason Flores) and lips bloodied (Alex Easterbrook and Kelsey Sigl) as the teams played a physical, emotional game, neither leaving anything on the floor.

“That game Saturday was so much fun,” the Mavs’ Katrina Selsor said Wednesday after practice. “It was a lot of fun. It was physical, and I think we hurt ourselves at the beginning getting down. It was fun that we had to play catch-up.

“They know our strengths and weaknesses, but we did a lot of things defensively that we don’t normally do and gave them a few more open looks at the basket. I think if we can break ourselves down on defense and do better on defense, we’ll be OK.”

Flores, like the Mavericks’ Wagner, is in his first year as the Skyhawks’ head coach.

“It was a physical game, and (the officials) allowed it to be. We got frustrated and a little out of sorts,” he said. “We learned a lesson. It was an emotional game for a little bit, and we let it get to us.”

Playing again so quickly could help both teams calm down a bit, but then again ...

“It’s going to be a definite physical battle, but gosh, it’s going to be fun,” Sharaya Selsor said. “There’s a rivalry that’s been there the last few years, and the last thing we want is for them to come in and take away something we’ve worked so hard for.”

Fort Lewis has won the past two RMAC Shootout titles, but this team is vastly different. Last year the Skyhawks were senior-laden, and only a few on this year’s team got a lot of playing time.

Add that to the coaching change, and it took a while for things to shake out in Durango after a 1-5 start. Since then, though, Fort Lewis has been a tough opponent, winning 10 of its past 11 and 17 of 21.

“Obviously Mesa is a great team, and I’ve got tons of respect for those players,” Flores said. “Taylor has done a great job. We know the challenge ahead of us, and to turn around and play so quickly, I don’t know if that’s an advantage or disadvantage. We could have done some things better that we’ll try to do this game.”

The Skyhawks are No. 8 in the South Central Region rankings this week, right on the bubble, and a win over the No. 1 team in the region would solidify a playoff spot.

Even a loss shouldn’t kill their playoff hopes, barring upsets with nonranked teams winning conference tournaments and taking someone’s spot with an automatic bid.

“Playing them, our strength of schedule will go up,” Flores said. “Nobody else in the region has to play the No. 1 team in the region three times. This last month, we’re 5-1 against teams ranked in the region, with our one loss being Mesa.”

Playoff experience, even if it’s from the bench or on another team, is crucial at this time of year.

The Mavericks haven’t made it out of the first round the past two years, but Rock won a regional title at Otero Junior College last year with Wagner, placing eighth in the NJCAA Division I national tournament. Bruna Deichmann was on Alaska-Anchorage’s team that made the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

“It’s definitely helpful having postseason experience,” Rock said. “You kind of know, not exactly what’s going to happen going into certain games, but you’re more prepared that anybody can beat anybody at any certain time.

“You’re expected to win, but no one’s guaranteed to win, so you have to go out and play every single game. That’s how you have to approach every game.”


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