|Posted March 4, 2008|
Pack women overcome odds to reach semis
CSU-Pueblo garners huge road win in Grand Junction to keep season alive
By JEFF LETOFSKY
Kip Drown knew his team could pull it off. So did his players.
And they did.
The Colorado State University-Pueblo women's basketball team overcame long odds to keep its season alive in the annual Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout postseason tournament.
The Pack knocked off Mesa State 73-65 in the quarterfinals last Friday in Grand Junction to reach the semifinals of the Shootout, which will be played in Pueblo at the Colorado State Fair Events Center Friday and Saturday. The ThunderWolves were the only road team to win in the quarterfinals - in the men's or women's bracket.
CSU-Pueblo (19-9), the fifth seed, will tangle with top-seed Fort Lewis (26-2) in one semifinal at 2 p.m. Third-seeded Metro State (19-9) and No. 2 seed Nebraska-Kearney (25-5) will meet in the other semifinals at 6 p.m.
The men's semifinals also will be played at the Events Center Friday.
The men's semifinals pit No. 1 Fort Lewis (22-5) against No. 4 Western New Mexico (17-11) at noon and No. 3 Colorado Christian (17-11) against No. 2 Nebraska-Kearney (16-12) at 4 p.m.
Championships in both brackets will be played Saturday at the Events Center with the men taking center court at 6 p.m. and the women to follow at 8 p.m.
CSU-Pueblo will be making its third consecutive appearance in the Final Four of the Shootout. The ThunderWolves won the Shootout two years ago and garnered an automatic NCAA Division II playoff berth. Last season, the Pack lost in the semifinals.
Just getting to the final four was improbable at best for the CSU-Pueblo women.
Mesa State had swept the season series between the RMAC West Division rivals, winning 81-67 in Pueblo and 96-62 in Grand Junction.
"We felt like if we played better we'd have a shot," Drown said. "I told our players in our meeting before the game that not many teams can get beat by 34 and go back to the same gym and get a win. I just believed they could do it and they believed they could do it.
"It was a mental thing more than anything. Mesa had played so well in that 34-point win. Our kids' mental preparation was the key."
Now, the ThunderWolves must face the best team in the RMAC in Fort Lewis, a team they've lost to twice this season by scores of 63-54 at home and 71-55 in Durango. But they get the Skyhawks in Pueblo, in the Events Center where they played the bulk of their home schedule while waiting for Massari Arena to be renovated.
"Fort Lewis has had a great year," Drown said. "They shoot the ball really well. They lead the country in shooting. But we've played four halves against them and been right there in two of them. We have to get off to a good start.
"We feel like we have an advantage. When you win games against someone you usually don't make adjustments because you've won. When you lose games, you look to make adjustments. And that's what we're going to do."
SHOOTOUT NOTES: For the fourth consecutive year, Altitude Sports and Entertainment will broadcast the RMAC Shootout championship games Saturday. Live coverage begins with the men's title game at 6 p.m. followed by the women's championship game at 8 p.m. . . . Handling the play-by-play will be Blake Olson, the Denver Nuggets' pregame and postgame show studio host. The color commentator will be Mark Randall, a former Nuggets player.. . . Ticket prices for the Shootout are as follows: $10 adult general admission, $7 over 65 general admission, $5 students, $3 children general admission, free under 4. Tickets are available at the door or through Ticketmaster. . . . One hundred free tickets are being made available for CSU-Pueblo students with a student ID. Those tickets are available at the CSU-Pueblo athletic office.