|Posted February 29, 2008|
Third time's a charm for Pack against Mesa State
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The last time the ThunderWolves left Brownson Arena at Mesa State College two weeks ago, having just lost by 34 for the second time in a season and all but dooming their shot at hosting a playoff game, they were searching for any answers to explain what had just happened.
Friday night, fighting for their playoff lives, the ThunderWolves were able to project those lost emotions on the Mavericks, coming right back to Grand Junction to overcome that beating and come away with the win in the opener of the RMAC Shootout, defeating Mesa State 73-65.
The win sets up a homecoming for the ThunderWolves, who advance to the RMAC semifinals next weekend at the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo. The road victory also marks just the third time that a road team has win in the RMAC playoffs, and first time that one team had done it on two occasions. In 2005-06, the Pack went to Fort Hays State and came away with a win en route to a berth in the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the first time in school history.
"It's all mental and it's all heart," Pack coach Kip Drown said of the ThunderWolves' vengeful win. "Very few teams get beat by 34 points and come back to that same arena two weeks later and get the win in a playoff game, no less. It speaks volumes about your team."
The Pack's mindset was certainly the story in this game, as the Pack showed the intensity Mesa State had shown in winning two regular season games at the expense of the ThunderWolves this season. CSU-Pueblo came out with all guns blazing, and held the lead for a bulk of the game.
"We rose up tonight," Drown said. "We have been so close against good teams this season, and we've been knocking on the door, and we just wanted to kick the sucker down. We wanted to come in and be real aggressive, and there was no fear at all in our kids' eyes."
After entering halftime tied at 30, the Pack amped up its game on the post to outstanding results. Sarah Staggs put together the best game of her career, coming back from a flat first half in which she had no points and four boards to put up a double-double in the second half alone, scoring 12 and adding 10 more rebounds for a total of 14, a career high.
"Sarah was a monster on the boards, and she just had an oustanding game," Drown said. "For her to step up like she did and play so outstanding, it was huge for our team."
Meanwhile, the ThunderWolves showed a mastery at drawing the foul, going to the line 17 times in the second half, hitting 12 charities, for an impressive 25-for-34 performance from the line in the game.
All combined, the Pack's second-half efforts enabled a comfortable margin, leading by as much as 13 and allowing the Pack to make history.
"We have been a good road team, and tonight, it showed up again," Drown said. "And now we get to come back to Pueblo and get a third shot at (one-seed) Fort Lewis. We're going to make some adjustments there and try to play like we did tonight."
Similar to Mesa State, the ThunderWolves lost both meetings they've had with Fort Lewis this season.
The ThunderWolves will see if the third time's a charm yet again on Friday at 2 p.m. against the Skyhawks at the Colorado State Fair Events Center.