|Posted February 23, 2008|
Pack fights to the last second in loss to WNMU
The final minute of the ThunderWolves' gut-wrenching 72-69 loss to Western New Mexico Saturday night at Massari Arena served as a microcosm of an up-and-down season.
After trailing by 11 at half, the ThunderWolves fought back to come within two, 69-67, with 35 seconds left. With the raucous Massari Arena crowd of over 1,500 willing them on, the Pack missed four straight three-point attempts but got four straight offensive boards, eventually settling for a deuce by Daniel Pierce with just two seconds left. Like the Pack's season, which ended with loss Saturday, time simply ran out on the ThunderWolves.
"The crowd helped get us back into it, but we just couldn't get over the hump," Pack coach Patrick Eberhart said. "We had a lot of three chances, but they just didn't fall."
The Pack's loss couldn't be chalked up to lack of effort. The ThunderWolves played effective basketball all night long, shooting 45 percent from the field and outrebounding the Mustangs by a 36-24 margin, while Rome Smith came one point away from his career high with 27, and outgoing senior Chris Childress added a double-double for the second consecutive night. But Western New Mexico was simply hot all night long and too much for the Pack to handle.
The Mustangs were consistent, going 53 percent from the field. Point guard Devin Stewart led the charge, going 6-for-7 from the field and 7-for-10 from the line to lead the Mustangs with 21 points. He was a thorn in the Pack's sides all night long.
"Devin gets to the basketball, makes free throws and has a knack for drawing contact," Eberhart said. "He was really good tonight and was one of the big reasons why we couldn't win this game."
But the Pack most certainly left everything they had out on the floor. Needing a win and losses by Regis and Western State to get into the playoffs, the ThunderWolves played like a team on the mission. Unfortunately, the mission simply fell off course, and on senior night, the Pack's three outgoing seniors, Childress, Brian Sewald and Julien Franklin, did all they could to will a victory.
"We got off to a slow start, but I credit our seniors with getting us back into the game," Eberhart said. "We battled, but it just wasn't our night."
The Pack ends its season with a 10-17 mark, finishing just out of the money in the race for an RMAC playoff spot. But in a season that saw the team end double-digit losing streaks to Nebraska-Kearney and Mesa State, it was one that provided a first step for a program on the move upward.
"You'd love to finish above .500, but this is a group with a lot of character and heart, and our record doesn't negate the accomplishments we've had this season," Eberhart said. "Any success we have in the future owes a credit to the work these guys put in this season."