Grizzlies looking to make history in RMAC Quarterfinal
KEARNEY, Neb.ó The Adams State College menís basketball team will try to make history on one of the biggest stages in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Wednesday night at 8 p.m. (CST), when the Grizzlies face the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers in an RMAC Shootout Quarterfinal in UNKís Health & Sports Center, which sports a capacity of 5,700.
The Grizzlies (13-14, 10-0 RMAC), who come into the tournament as the sixth seed, have not won an RMAC Tournament game in eight all-time tries since the conference made the jump to the NCAA Division II ranks for the 1992-93 season. They have also not defeated the third-seeded Lopers in 17 all-time tries, 13 of which have come in the current era.
However, coach Larry Mortensen and his team of 11 active players come in with the confidence of a good season and the hopes of advancing to the RMAC Shootout semifinals to face either No. 2 seed Fort Lewis or No. 7 seed Colorado Mines. The Grizzlies defeated the latter squad on Dec. 17 in Golden and have played to close games with the RMAC West Division Champion Skyhawks, including a double-overtime thriller a month later in Plachy Hall.
Just two weeks ago, the Grizzlies had high hopes of earning one of the top four seeds and home playoff game. However, they dropped their final three games of the regular season and must now go to Kearney, where the Lopers are 14-1 this season.
The road has not been pleasant to the Grizzlies or to teams in general during the quarterfinal round of the tournament. ASC is just 3-10 as the away team this year. The visiting teams have come up winless in each of the last five years and are just 1-27 over the past seven tournaments during the opening round.
However, one can be sure that Mortensen will remind his players that it takes just one win to reach the semifinals and that they played the Lopers tough in their previous meeting this season. Heís also very aware that this yearís sixth seed is the highest that the Grizzlies have ever had during the current 14-team RMAC structure.
UNK won that game on Jan. 7 in Alamosa, Colo. by a 73-61 count although the Grizzlies cut a 13-point deficit to just five with less than five minutes left before the Lopers pulled away for the win.
The Lopers (20-7, 15-4 RMAC) are a tough team to figure out, especially as of late. They dropped a 70-57 decision in their worst loss of the season on Feb. 18 at Colorado Mines before being taken out by 11-16 Chadron State, which missed out of the RMAC tournament by two full games, last Thursday. UNK then came back to defeat the nationís top ranked team in Fort Hays State, spoiling a Sunday afternoon for a 7,167-person sellout crowd at Fort Hays Stateís Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Lopersí top player in unquestionably Dusty Jura. The 6-foot-6 junior forward averaged 18.1 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, good for a top four RMAC ranking in both categories. He also shoots 56.4 percent from the field and leads the team with 79 assists.
James Lane, Chris Dean and Chad Burger also average more than 11 points per game each. Burger had 18 points in the first meeting with the Grizzlies while Jura had 13 and as many rebounds.
The Grizzlies have some scoring prowess of their own, led by 6-foot-5 junior forward Roman Moniak (Sacramento, Calif.). The San Joaquin Delta College transfer is averaging 15.9 points per game to lead the squad. He has tallied more than 20 in 10 of the teamís 15 games since meeting the Lopers for the first time, a stretch that has seen the Grizzlies go 8-7 with a 6-game winning streak. He ranks seventh in the RMAC in scoring and also leads all active Grizzlies with a 51.5 percent shooting resume.
Junior wing Wes Jensen (Molalla, Ore.) has also been hot as of late and comes into the tournament averaging 11.7 points and a team-leading 6.0 rebounds per game. Jensen is also the RMACís most prolific 3-point shooter this season and has made 69, an NCAA Division II era school record. Jensen hit five treys while scoring a then career-best 20 points in the first meeting with the Lopers.
Senior guard Greg Baker (Lewisville, Texas) has also been quite steady. He is averaging 11.8 points per game and leads the team with 90 assists, a 3.33 per game average that puts him ninth on the RMAC statistical charts.
Only two Grizzly players have seen post-season experience, that coming on Mar. 3, 2004 when the Grizzlies fell to top-seeded Metro State. David Hull (Belen, N.M.) started that game and played for 14 minutes while Kyle Wilson (Pleasant View, Colo.) saw one minute of action. Both players, now juniors, were redshirt freshmen at the time. Another junior, Richard Mincey (Colorado Springs, Colo.), was a redshirt on that 2003-04 squad.
Wednesday nightís game and any other RMAC Shootout games that the Grizzlies play can be heard live on KSPK-FM (103.5 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.