Grizzly men looking to secure another playoff home game
ASC still eighth in North Central rankings
ALAMOSA, Colo.ó In 2006-07, the Adams State College menís basketball team made NCAA Division II era (1992-93/Present) school history as the Grizzlies hosted a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout Tournament game, which they won, en-route to championship game and NCAA Division II National Tournament appearances.
This year, the Grizzlies can earn the right to host a game once again provided they can claim home wins over Western New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands this weekend.
Those wins could also go a long way towards getting the Grizzlies into the national tournament for a second straight year.
The Friday and Saturday night games both begin at 8 p.m. in Plachy Hall.
Considering the Grizzlies are an impressive 9-1 at home this year and winners of 16 of their last 18 in The Den, first-year Grizzly coach Mark Murdock knows that claiming home-court advantage for the first round of the playoffs is key.
Heís also telling his players that losses in the upcoming games could easily blow a chance at a second straight national tournament appearance.
And although the Grizzlies could possibly get a home game even with a loss, the only way to make certain is by defeating both the Western New Mexico Mustangs, also in contention for a home game, on Friday, and the struggling New Mexico Highlands Cowboys, who have been relegated to the role of the spoiler for what will be ASCís Senior Night festivities, on Saturday.
The Grizzlies, who matched a NCAA Division II era record for single-season wins with a road triumph at Mesa State, stand 17-8 overall and 11-6 in RMAC action. They currently sit tied with Nebraska-Kearney, which hosts Regis on Thursday and UC-Colorado Springs, Saturday, for third place in the overall RMAC standings. Metro State is just a half-game back at 11-7 while Western New Mexico, 14-11 overall, is 10-7.
The top four teams get to host games while seeds five through eight must go on the road.
The Grizzlies also enter the weekend ranked an all-important eighth in the North Central Regional Rankings. Although only conference tournament winners are guaranteed spots in the North Central Regional, the first phase of the national tournament, the rankings will determine the teams that round out the field.
ASC has now been ranked eighth for three straight weeks.
The Grizzlies do have history on their side as they have defeated the Mustangs in each of the three meetings since Western New Mexico re-joined the conference for the 2006-07 season. ASC was also in a similar position last year and knocked off the Mustangs in Silver City, N.M. to clinch a share of the RMAC West title and the right to host a playoff game.
The Grizzlies also went to Silver City earlier this year and came from an 8-point half-time deficit to claim an 83-77 win.
Saturdayís game against New Mexico Highlands, currently 1-24 overall and 1-16 in RMAC play, will be the final regular season game for five Grizzly seniorsó Travis Carr (Canon City, Colo.), Larry Charles, Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.), Kevin Johnson (Newark, Calif.), Rece Hampton (Greenwood, Miss.) and Marcus Mortensen (Cortez, Colo.).
Carr, a newcomer to the Grizzly program in 2007-08, leads the team with 48 3-pointers. He is also second on the team with 36 steals and is averaging 9.0 points per game. The former Otero Junior College standout played at Eastern New Mexico, where Murdock was an assistant, during the 2005-06 season before taking last year off.
Charles, Jr., a Grizzly for the past five years, has been a major part of ASCís success over the last two seasons. A Second Team All-RMAC West pick last year, is averaging 10.1 points per game this year and enters the weekend as one of ASCís top 10 NCAA Division II era players in several different statistical categories.
He ranks third in career assists with 350 and is second in steals with 175, just five short of Frank Duruís record of 180, a mark that Charles, Jr. could easily set down the stretch considering he has 35 this year so far.
Charles, Jr. will almost certainly break the record for games played has he has appeared in 110 over the past four years after redshirting in 2003-04. 2006-07 Grizzly assistant coach David Mitchell holds the current record of 112 which would go down assuming Charles, Jr. plays in both games this weekend and in the RMAC Tournament, that the Grizzlies have already clinched a spot in.
Johnson was a newcomer to the Grizzly program last year and was a key member of the National Tournament team. The Ohlone College transfer has appeared in 51 games over the last two seasons with the Grizzlies and scored a career-high 11 earlier this year at Nebraska-Kearney.
Hampton has been an impressive addition to the Grizzly roster in 2007-08. A former honorable mention All-American at Eastfield (Texas) College under Murdock, Hampton re-started his collegiate career at Eastern New Mexico before coming with Murdock to ASC this fall.
He has taken the RMAC by storm and leads the Grizzlies in several statistical categories including scoring and rebounding with 15.6 and 7.3 per game averages. He also broke Duruís Division II era single-season record for blocked shots and leads the RMAC in that category with 53.
Hampton is also shooting a RMAC-best .660 from the field, a mark that will almost undoubtedly allow him to crush ASCís all-time single season record of .610, set way back in 1970-71 by ASC Hall of Famer Ed Kemp.
Mortensen, the RMAC West Co-Defensive Player of the Year last year, has also been solid in his senior campaign. He has an impressive total of 108 assists this year, third most in the RMAC, and has a solid 1.86 assist-to-turnover ratio, tied for third highest in the RMAC.
He is ranked fourth in career assists with 336 and fifth in career steals with 109.