Postseason push comes for Hounds
Last updated 2/25/2020 at 3:57pm
PORTALES — It’s coming down to the final weekend of the regular season in Lone Star Conference basketball, and both Eastern New Mexico University squads have something on the line.
The women, currently locked in a three-way tie for fifth in the 18-team league, need some help to be able to move up to the top four and earn a first-round bye in next week’s LSC tournament. Meantime, the men are in tight contention to earn one of the last berths in the 12-team event.
The Greyhounds host Cameron on Thursday night and Midwestern State on Saturday afternoon at Greyhound Arena, with the women tipping off first in both cases — 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, 2 p.m. on Saturday.
ENMU’s women (18-8, 12-8 LSC) are currently tied with Cameron (13-13, 12-8) and Angelo State (15-9, 12-8), one game behind Tarleton State (19-7, 13-7). A tough two-point home loss to the Texans on Feb. 15, in which the Hounds led by 10 points with two minutes remaining, may end up being the difference between a first-round bye and having to play an extra game, albeit likely at home.
The Greyhounds can finish no lower than ninth, and a No. 9 finish only happens if ENMU drops its last two games, Angelo State gets at least a split and St. Mary’s beats St. Edward’s on Saturday.
Women’s coach Josh Prock said every game is a challenge in the LSC, and he expects no different than that this weekend.
“Top to bottom, anybody can beat anybody,” he said of the league. “Anything can happen.”
The Hounds need two wins plus help to overhaul Tarleton, which has the tiebreaker. The Texans are closing with road games against Texas A&M International (10-16, 7-13) and Texas A&M-Kingsville (4-18, 3-17).
Both Cameron and Midwestern are coming off weekend sweeps at home against LSC newcomers Arkansas-Fort Smith and Oklahoma Christian. In fact, the Aggies dropped 102 on Fort Smith in a 14-point victory on Saturday.
“Cameron is going to do what they’ve always done,” Prock said. “They try to get into transition and shoot a lot of 3s.”
Guards Maighan Hedoc (20.1 ppg, 3.7 apg), Ava Battese (16.2 ppg) and Amaka Nwakamma (10.6 ppg, 5.6 rpg) lead the way. Hedoc, who leads the LSC in scoring, is from Australia while Nwakamma hails from Nigeria.
MSU also has three double-figure scorers in senior forward Elizabeth Cathcart (13.1), senior guard Mica Schneider (12.5) and junior forward Hannah Reynolds (10.7). Cathcart leads the team in rebounding at 6.6 per game, while Schneider averages a team-best 3.9 assists a contest.
“They have really good players,” Prock said. “They play at a slower pace (than Cameron), which is more our style.”
ENMU played well in a 73-59 loss at then unbeaten, third-ranked Texas A&M-Commerce last Thursday before blowing out Texas-Tyler 81-46 on Saturday. Commerce (25-1, 19-1) suffered its first loss on Saturday at home against West Texas A&M.
Prock said he thinks his team has shaken off the tough loss to Tarleton.
“Defensively we played well,” he said of the weekend games. “Mentality-wise, I think our girls are in a great place. They’re tough, resilient kids.”
The men (7-18, 7-13) are a game behind the ninth-place tie of Texas-Permian Basin (15-14, 8-12), Oklahoma Christian (9-15, 8-12) and Cameron (9-17, 8-12), half a game behind 12th-place St. Mary’s (2-15, 8-13) and tied for 13th with Saturday foe Midwestern State (7-19, 7-13).
The Hounds should make the tourney if they win both games, with the possibility of rising as high as ninth. A split puts their postseason chances in jeopardy, although coach Tres Segler said there’s at least a small possibility it might still be enough to qualify.
“It’s kind of crazy that it comes down like that,” Segler said. “They’re both good enough to beat you. But they’re like us — they’ve hit some snags here and there.”
Both opponents are coming off weekend home sweeps of Oklahoma Christian and Arkansas-Fort Smith, both have won three in a row, and both have two players averaging in double figures. For the Aggies, 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Kendall Scott is scoring 10.9 ppg and leads the team in rebounding at 6.3 per contest, while sophomore guard Brock Schreiner averages 10.8 points and 2 1/2 assists.
Midwestern’s leaders are senior guards D’monta Harris (16.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Daniel Thompson (14.1 ppg).
Segler is hoping 6-7 junior forward Marvin Mapaga would be cleared to play this weekend. Mapaga, averaging 6.9 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11 outings, has missed the last 13 contests after sustaining a shin injury on Dec. 21 against Oklahoma Christian.
“He’s the most athletic big man I have,” Segler said. “It’s been a huge hole for us not having him.”