Grizzlies topple UNK for first time in RMAC Shootout Semifinals
ASC to play Metro in Sunday's Championships; by Chris Day
PUEBLO, Colo.— Behind a career-high 33 points from senior Roman Moniak (Sacramento, Calif.) and some clutch overtime free throw shooting from junior guard Marcus Mortensen (Cortez, Colo.), the Adams State College men’s basketball team defeated the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers for the first time in school history while advancing to Sunday’s championship game of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout with a 97-90 thriller over UNK on Saturday evening the Colorado State Fair Events Center.
The Grizzlies, now winners of 12 of their last 14, overcame a 71-65 deficit with three and a half minutes left to tie the game at 72 with 1:12 left before a pair of Chad Burger free throws after Moniak’s fifth foul put UNK up 74-72 with 5.1 seconds left.
With Moniak out of the game, the Grizzlies then in-bounded the ball to Larry Charles, Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.) who went coast-to-coast to force overtime with a lay-up at the buzzer.
ASC then grabbed the opening-tip in overtime before Russ Murrey (El Cerrito, Calif.) followed his own miss as he muscled in the opening points of the overtime period.
RMAC Player of the Year Dusty Jura, who had an incredible 33 points and 20 rebounds in the losing cause, then tied the game at 76 with a pair of free throws before a 9-0 Grizzly run, triggered by five Wes Jensen (Molalla, Ore.) points put the Grizzlies up for good.
Jensen, who finished with 19 points, hit a jumper with 4 minutes left and then spotted up from the top of the key in transition putting the Grizzlies up 81-76.
After Mortensen, who finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and six assists, grabbed a Burger miss, Rajshad Anderson (Lewisville, Texas) scored his only points of the night from the right corner putting ASC up 84-76 with 3:06 left in the overtime.
Charles, Jr. then made one of his three steals before putting in one of two free throws to put ASC up by nine.
Jura answered with two more free throws but committed one of UNK’s three overtime turnovers on the Lopers’ next possession.
Mortensen then started a string of eight straight successful free throws as the second-seeded Grizzlies put the clamps on the historic win that allows them to play top-seed Metro State in Sunday’s championship game.
The Roadrunners, ranked fifth in the latest NABC Poll, posted a 73-58 win over Fort Lewis in the day’s first semifinal.
Sunday’s game, which tips-off at 2 p.m., will be the Grizzlies first ever RMAC Shootout Championship appearance in the conference’s NCAA Division II (1992-93/Present) history.
The Grizzlies, now 16-12 overall and just one win away from matching a Division II era record for wins, got off to a great start and led by 12 (24-12) on a Kyle Forster (Sanford, Colo.) drive and lay-up with 8:51 to go in the first half.
Behind Jura and Burger, who had 27 points, the Lopers started to whittle the lead down and eventually took their first lead of the game at the 4:14 mark on two James Lane free throws.
Lane, who finished with 15 points, also put UNK up 36-35 at the break with a lay-up in the final minute of the first half.
The two teams continued to trade blows in the second half as neither team led by more than six until Moniak scored ASC’s next seven points to tie the game at 72.
The Grizzlies went to the free throw line a season-high 41 times and were a solid 13 of 16 (81.3 percent) in overtime. They shot 80.5 percent (33-41) from the charity stripe overall and were also a respectable 45.9 percent (28-61) from the field.
Moniak and Jensen combined to make seven of the team’s eight 3-balls as ASC shot 42.1 percent from beyond the arc on 19 attempts. The Lopers, who were 11-for-22 from 3-point territory in the team’s Jan. 4 meeting, a 84-77 decision in Alamosa, finished Saturday’s game just 5 of 25 (20.0 percent).
UNK fell to 23-6 with the loss but is still a virtual lock to advance to next weekend’s NCAA Division II North Central Regional Tournament. The Lopers were ranked fourth in this week’s regional rankings.
ASC was ranked eighth in that poll and inched ever closer to a historic berth in that tournament with Saturday’s win, the first in 20 all-time contests against the Lopers.