Grizzlies hoping to build space using home-court advantage
ALAMOSA, Colo.ó As the season enters the final month, the Adams State College menís basketball team has a chance to put some distance between themselves and other contenders for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament berth. Moreover, they have a chance to do that in a friendly placeó Plachy Hall.
At home for their next four games, the Grizzlies would currently be the seventh seed in the 8-team postseason affair but are just one game ahead of teams that would not make the tournament.
One of those teams is New Mexico Highlands University, which will enter Plachy Hall for a key RMAC West Division match-up on Friday. Struggling University of Colorado-Colorado Springs will also venture in for a Saturday night match-up. Both games are at 8 p.m. after 6 p.m. womenís games and can be heard on KSPK-FM (103.5 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.
Coach Larry Mortensen, who picked up his 100th career win in ASCís last home game on Jan. 23, and his Grizzlies, 8-11 overall, currently sit with a 5-6 RMAC mark with just eight games remaining. They have won three of their last four after a 7-game slide and are a solid 5-2 at home this season. One of the losses came in double-overtime.
NMHU is nearly as hot after winning two straight, both on the road. The Cowboys are 8-10 overall and 4-7 in conference play and could tie ASC in the RMAC West Division standings with a win over the Grizzlies. UC-Colorado Springs is just 2-17 overall and 1-10 in conference play but would love to play the spoiler for teams such as the Grizzlies.
Both opposing teams have dynamic, athletic players who reside near the top of the RMAC in several statistical categories. NMHUís leading player is 6-foot-4 senior post Robert Franklin, a Preseason All-RMAC pick from Philadelphia, Pa. Franklin averaged 18.1 points, 9.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game, all team-highs. He sits second in the RMAC statistics in rebounding and assists and is fourth in scoring.
The Mountain Lions are led by 6-foot-4 junior guard/forward Patrick Hannaway, a Division I transfer who returned to his home city from Stephen F. Austin State University. Hannaway averages 19.7 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and also ranks among the RMACís top ten in steals with 30, a 1.58 per game average. He is second in the RMAC in scoring and sixth in rebounding.
The Grizzlies are not without stars themselves. Juniors Roman Moniak (Sacramento, Calif.) and Wes Jensen (Molalla, Ore.) have been solid throughout the season and on fire as of late. Moniak had three straight and four of five games in which he scored 20 or more points and now leads the team with a 14.6 per game average, eighth best in the RMAC.
As the first Grizzly to score 20 or more points in three straight games since Ben Ellsworth in January of 2003, Moniak has been in double figures in nine straight contests.
Jensen, who has been converted into more of an inside player, leads the team with a 6.1 rebound per game average. He also has the ability to score from the outside and poured in a career-high 21 points to lead the Grizzlies to an overtime win at arch-rival Western State last Saturday. Now averaging 10.7 points per game, Jensen is still ASCís 3-point shooting specialist and has made 42 long distance calls, the most in the RMAC. He scored the gameís final six points in the 63-58 triumph in Gunnison.
Senior Greg Baker (Lewisville, Texas) has also fared well and is second on the team in scoring with an 11.6 point per game average. He also leads the team with 61 assists, a 3.21 per game average that puts him in a ninth place tie in the RMAC statistics.
Neither of ASCís opponents has had much success in Plachy Hall, although the Cowboys did come out with an 81-80 victory last year en-route to a RMAC tournament appearance. Gene Gonzales, who averages 9.2 points per game this year, hit a game-winning trey with 20 seconds left. That was just NMHUís second road win against the Grizzlies in 14 tries since ASC made the move to the NCAA Division II ranks for the 1992-93 season.
The Mountain Lions have also struggled against the Grizzlies, who have won each of the last six meetings, three of which have come in Plachy Hall. UCCS, which plays at RMAC West Division leading Fort Lewis on Friday, will be led by interim head coach Doug Schakel, a RMAC Hall of Famer who has won over 500 basketball games, most of them at Mesa State, where he coached for 18 years.
Schakel, who worked with UCCS athletic director Stephen Kirkham, the former womenís coach at Mesa State, replaced Lance Hammond who was fired on Jan. 10. Kirkham coached the team to victory over Colorado College a day later picking up his 300th career win because Schakel was out of the state at the time. The Mountain Lions have not won with Schakel on the bench but are showing sings of improvement as they learn his motion offense.