The Paw Print
The Adams State College Grizzlies men’s basketball team continued their improved play of late, shocking the nationally ranked Mesa State College Mavericks with an 87-84 upset win Friday night in Plachy Hall.
The Mavericks have led the regional rankings for the last four weeks, but lost their second straight game and fell to 20-3 overall and to 14-2 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference competition.
True freshman Nick Fox led the Grizzlies with 21 points, and sophomore guard Robby Hanzlik added 20 points en route to the victory that snapped an 11-game losing streak. Junior forward Seth Heinbaugh also had 17 points, making 5 of 6 shots from the field, and senior forward Eric Miller continued his stellar play of late as well, adding 14 points of his own while knocking down 10 of 12 from the free throw line.
The Grizzlies shot 68.4 percent in the second half and a season-best 57.4 percent for the game. They also hit a season-high nine 3-pointers.
The Mavericks, the nation’s 15th-ranked team, were led once again by the excellent play of senior guard Mike Dominguez, who poured in 37 points. Junior forward Lance Fite added 15 points for the Mavericks, and sophomore guard Brian Kenshalo rounded out the top scorers with 12 points.
The first half saw the Grizzlies fall behind in the opening minutes, but establish the lead at the 17:05 mark and hold that lead for the rest of the opening frame, leading by as many as 12 points with 4:53 to go, and carried a solid 37-30 lead into halftime following a late surge by Dominguez that culminated in a made 3-pointer with two seconds left on the clock.
The Mavericks opened the second half by scoring seven of the first nine points and closed the lead back down to one possession before Heinbaugh and Hanzlik nailed back-to-back 3-pointers, sparking a 9-0 run that extended the lead back to double-figures at 48-37.
The Grizzlies led by 11 points with 12:28 to go in the game before the Mavericks came back to tie the game at 65 with 7:05 remaining on a 3-pointer from Dominguez and a layup by sophomore forward Michael Baer.
The Grizzlies hit three free throws over their next two possessions to take a 68-65 lead before Kenshalo responded with a 3-pointer to tie the game.
The Mavericks took their first lead since the opening minutes of the first half on a Dominguez 3-pointer with 5:27 left on the clock.
The Mavericks extended their lead to two possessions at 75-71 when Dominguez connected on a jumper with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
The Grizzlies answered back with an 8-0 run to capture their own four point lead on a layup by true freshman center Jack Osborn and consecutive 3-pointers from Hanzlik and sophomore guard Brad Hernandez.
Kenshalo countered with yet another 3-pointer, one of 11 total 3-pointers for the Mavericks on the night, and tied the game at 79 with 1:16 to go.
Fox nailed two free throws on the ensuing possession after being fouled by Fite with 1:06 left, and added two more free throws following a Dominguez miss that would have tied the game.
With the lead at 83-79, the Grizzlies amped up the defensive intensity, and Hanzlik came away with one of his six steals, and nailed the two free throws that came after being fouled by Dominguez.
The Mavericks, one of the top teams in the RMAC this season in large part because they have many players who can get hot from the field in a hurry, proved that to be true again as Kenshalo nailed yet another 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 85-82 with 17 seconds to go.
Fox was fouled on the following possession and split the free throws, bringing the score to 86-82. Dominguez was fouled by Heinbaugh on the next possession while attempting a 3-pointer, but only connected on two of the foul shots.
Down 86-84 with four seconds to go, the Mavericks fouled Miller, who proceeded to hit one of two from the charity stripe. A desperation 3-pointer from senior forward Sean Flohr clanked off the rim, allowing the Grizzlies to hold on for inarguably their most impressive victory of the season.
The Grizzlies have beaten the Mavericks in four of the last five years at Plachy Hall. It was the first win for the Grizzlies over a team ranked in the National Association of Basketball Coaches Poll in the three years that Coach Mark Murdock has been at the helm.
The Grizzlies snapped a 15-game home losing streak in conference play, and improved to 5-19 overall and to 2-14 in the RMAC heading into Saturday night’s matchup with arch rival Western State, who enters the contest 5-18 overall and 2-14 in the RMAC.