Martinez leads UCCS into playoffs

By Doug Fitzgerald published February 24, 2006

Talk about taking it right down to the wire.

Behind a career night by Maribeth Martinez, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs wrapped up a spot in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs with a 68-60 victory over the Western State Mountaineers Friday night at Gunnison.

Martinez, a senior from Denver who was playing the final regular-season game of her collegiate career, scored a career-high 29 points and grabbed a career-high eight rebounds. She also had eight assists and four steals, both game highs.

“(Making the playoffs) was a goal that we set from the very beginning,” said UCCS coach Jessika Stratton by phone. “To find ourselves in that position shows how hard the girls have worked and how much they believe in what weâ€TMre trying to do.”

The Mountain Lions improved to 12-15, 9-10 in the RMAC. Fridayâ€TMs win, combined with New Mexico Highlandsâ€TM 87-73 loss at Mesa State, assured UCCS at least the No. 8 seed in the conference playoffs. The Mountain Lions could climb as high as the No. 7 seed if Colorado School of Mines loses to Metro State on Saturday. If the Mountain Lions are the No. 8 seed, they will travel to Denver to face Regis on Tuesday. If they are the No. 8 seed, theyâ€TMll head to Durango to face Fort Lewis.

A jumper by Missouri Ann Donnell completed a 15-1 run that gave Western State a 27-16 lead with 5:17 left in the first half. UCCS answered with eight straight points, but missed its final five field goal attempts to allow the Mountaineers to extend the lead to 36-26 at the break.

“They were down a little bit,” said Stratton. “The first thing (assistant coach Phil Johnson) and I said was that they needed to get their heads up.”

To help Foster that emotional turnaround, Stratton and Johnson had a plan.

“(Western State was) sagging off our guards and collapsing on Jennine (Sauter) and Julie (Richards),” said Stratton. We challenged our guards offensively to penetrate the gaps in their zone.”

The cold shooting continued as the teams went scoreless over the first 2½ minutes of the second half. A Jennine Sauter jumper not only broke the fast, it began an 11-0 UCCS run that gave the Mountain Lions their first lead of the half, 37-36 with 15:40 remaining. During the run, Martinez accounted for seven points and two assists.

After a 3-pointer by Western Stateâ€TMs Beth Thom, the Mountain Lions, behind five points each by Martinez and Dolly Fiedelman, reeled off 2 straight points to take a 49-39 lead. The combined 23-3 run broke Western State, which was unable to get closer than five the rest of the way.

Strattonâ€TMs halftime challenge paid huge dividends. Martinez scored 23 of her points and Fiedelman had seven of her 10 points in the second half. Martinez went 8-for-12 from te field, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range.

Another key was the Mountain Lions ability to take over the ball.

“We only had eight turnovers on the night, which is a phenomenal stat especially considering that they pressed us late,” said Stratton. “We did a great job of being patient and feeding the post when they were open.”

Despite being double-teamed most of the night, Jennine Sauter finished with 15 points for UCCS.

McConnell led Western State (9-17, 7-12 RMAC) with 16 points, while Meghan McKinney had 14. Audra Lawson added 10 points and a game-high 19 rebounds.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FFr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSo
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FJr.
Jennine SauterJennine Sauter21FSr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CJr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CFr.
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CSo
Julie RichardsJulie Richards40CSr.
Maribeth MartinezMaribeth Martinez14GJr.
Maribeth MartinezMaribeth Martinez14G
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