The men’s basketball team’s journey to become RMAC Shootout champions fell just short at the hands of Fort Lewis Saturday during the championship game at the Pueblo Events Center in Pueblo, Colorado, with a final score of 72-67.
Mines, the regular season RMAC champions, struggled to start their offense and fell behind early with 6-0. They would then rally to a 17-11 lead thanks to a jumpshot from senior guard and RMAC Player of the Year Sean Armstrong. Mines continued to build on their lead and coasted into halftime with a 33-27 advantage.
The second half was a different story. Fort Lewis came out running, quickly tying the game at 40-40 in just under six minutes. The Skyhawks then caught fire, connecting on 10 of their next 12 shots, including three three-pointers, and before the Orediggers knew what had hit them, they were trailing by ten, 58-48 with 8:08 remaining.
It would take more than a second half spurt from the Skyhawks to dispose of the regular season champion Orediggers. Mines clawed their way back into the game, closing to within two points at 65-63 with just over three minutes to play. Fort Lewis responded with a free throw and an easy layup from Kyle Behrens to increase the margin to 68-65. Mines put up one last run, as Dale Minschwaner gathered in a rebound from a Brett Green three point attempt and scored the layup to pull the Orediggers to within 68-67 with less than a minute to play.
Two Fort Lewis free throws later and down 70-67 with 28 seconds remaining, Mines had one last opportunity to tie the game and force overtime. Unfortunately, as Armstrong’s three point attempt clanked off the side of the rim, so did the Orediggers’ last chance at victory. The damage had been done, and the deficit was too great to overcome as Fort Lewis scored their remaining two points on free throw attempts to bring the final score to 72-67.
Minschwaner led all scorers with a game high nineteen points in the loss. Junior Gordon Galloway scored fifteen points in addition to eight rebounds, two assists, two blocks, and a steal. Drew Hoffman added nine points. Armstrong and Nico Mucci each contributed eight. Green and Chris Goutama each scored three points and Freshman Trevor Wages rounded out the scoring with two points of his own.
For the Skyhawks, DeAndre Lansdowne netted a team high of seventeen points and RMAC All-Tournament MVP Daniel Steffensen finished with fifteen points, seven rebounds, and four assists.
With the loss, Mines falls to 24-5 overall and finishes in second place in the RMAC Shootout Championship. The victory for Fort Lewis earned them an automatic bid into the 64 team Division II tournament beginning next week. Even with the loss, Mines should still receive a fairly high seed in the tournament, giving them the opportunity to redeem Saturday’s loss and continue their season.
Before the championship game, the Orediggers were ranked eighteenth in the nation and second in the latest Central Region rankings. During the 2010-2011 season, Mines collected a school-record seventeen RMAC regular season victories, earned the regular season RMAC championship, and boasted both the RMAC player and coach of the year in Armstrong and Pryor Orser, respectively.
The selection show for the NCAA tournament was held last night and determined the entire 64 team field. If Mines was selected as one of those teams, their season continues on next week during the Division II form of March Madness.