Grizzlies stumble to hot-shooting Mustangs
ASC now tied with WNMU for fifth place at 11-7
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Adams State College’s chances at hosting a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout quarterfinal took a serious hit as the Western New Mexico University Mustangs held on for an 82-74 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference victory over the Grizzly men’s basketball team, Friday night in Plachy Hall.
The Mustangs, led by a combined 39 points from Devin Stewart and JJ Galberth, improved to 15-11 overall. The Grizzlies, paced by 16 points from redshirt freshman Seth Heinbaugh (Prescott, Ariz.), another 14 from senior Larry Charles, Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.) and a 10-point, 13-rebound double-double by Rece Hampton (Greenwood, Miss.) fell to 17-9 with just their second home loss of the year.
Both teams are now 11-7 in RMAC play and are tied for fifth place in the overall RMAC standings, a half-game behind Metro State which claimed a 66-64 win over Colorado Mines.
The Roadrunners have now completed their regular season and are half game behind Nebraska-Kearney (12-6 RMAC), which completes the regular season with a Saturday night home tilt with UC-Colorado Springs. The Lopers are currently in third place.
The Grizzlies, needing a Saturday night win over 1-25 (1-17 RMAC) New Mexico Highlands more than ever, must also hope for Western New Mexico to drop a Saturday evening game at Colorado State-Pueblo to have any hope at hosting a quarterfinal as the Mustangs would win a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Grizzlies should both teams win.
The ThunderWolves did defeat the Mustangs, a team ASC also defeated on the road, by four points on Jan. 17.
On Friday, the Mustangs won the game with their shooting and defense. WNMU shot 57.1 percent (28-49) throughout and was an even better 61.9 percent (13-21) in the second half as they extended a 41-35 halftime lead to as many as 13 before a late Grizzly comeback attempt fell short.
The Mustangs were also a solid 8-for-14 (57.1 percent) from beyond the arc and hit some monstrous 3-balls down the stretch.
The Grizzlies, who were also guilty of 17 turnovers on the evening, shot just 43.4 percent (23-53) from the field and 34.6 percent (9-26) in the second half.
Down 65-52 with 7:21 to go and still down by a dozen (71-59) with 5:59 to go, the Grizzlies finally came to life with a 6-0 run capped by a thunderous Charles, Jr.-to-Hampton alley oop that brought a crowd of more than 1,600 to a new level of excitement.
However, with 3:29 left Steve Berrelleza hit a fade-away 3-pointer from the corner to stun the crowd while putting the Mustangs back up by eight (76-68).
Hampton did convert an old-fashion 3-point play at the other end before senior Travis Carr (Canon City, Colo.) hit one of two free throws to pull the Grizzlies within 76-72 with 2:30 to go.
Each team then missed shots on their next possession before Charles, Jr. was called for a technical foul for rough contact with Trey Clarkson, who missed both of the ensuing free throws.
However, the Mustangs pulled down a key offensive rebound on a missed Justin Williams 3-pointer before Berrelleza, who had 11 points, hit another killer 3-pointer with 48.4 seconds left to put WNMU in front 79-72.
Marcus Mortensen (Cortez, Colo.) did answer with two free throws at the other end as he drew contact on a drive to the hole.
Stewart, who scored 12 of his game-high 21 points from the line, then hit three of four down the stretch to ice the win.
The Grizzlies had gotten out to a 5-1 lead in the early stages of the game before an 11-2 Mustang run allowed the visitors to go up 15-7 on a Stewart jumper.
The Grizzlies clawed back and eventually took 9-18 and 21-20 leads on Mortensen and Heinbaugh buckets before a Williams jumper followed by a Galberth 3-pointer gave the Mustangs a 25-21 lead that they would hold for the final 27 minutes of the contest.
Saturday’s game with New Mexico Highlands, a team the Grizzlies have defeated three straight times, could be the final home contest for five Grizzly seniors who will be honored before the game.
The list of ASC seniors includes Carr, Charles, Jr., Hampton, Mortensen and Kevin Johnson (Newark, Calif.), who did have a solid 8-point game on Friday.
Tip-off is at 8 p.m. and can be heard on KSPK-FM (103.5 & 104.1 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.