Martinez leads UCCS into playoffs
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.
â€œ(Making the playoffs) was a goal that we set from the very beginning,â€ said UCCS coach Jessika Stratton by phone. â€œTo find ourselves in that position shows how hard the girls have worked and how much they believe in what weâ€TMre trying to do.â€
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.
â€œThey were down a little bit,â€ said Stratton. â€œThe first thing (assistant coach Phil Johnson) and I said was that they needed to get their heads up.â€
To help Foster that emotional turnaround, Stratton and Johnson had a plan.
â€œ(Western State was) sagging off our guards and collapsing on Jennine (Sauter) and Julie (Richards),â€ said Stratton. We challenged our guards offensively to penetrate the gaps in their zone.â€
The cold shooting continued as the teams went scoreless over the first 2Â½ 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.
â€œWe only had eight turnovers on the night, which is a phenomenal stat especially considering that they pressed us late,â€ said Stratton. â€œWe did a great job of being patient and feeding the post when they were open.â€
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
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