Season ends with playoff loss
ALAMOSA- Perhaps it was appropriate that the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, coached by former Adams State assistant Russ Caton, should be a chapter in the storybook ending to Larry Mortensen's coaching career.
The Mountain Lion staged a spirited comeback in the final five minutes Wednesday night before succumbing 98-83 to the Adams State Grizzlies in a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference quarterfinal game at Plachy Hall.
UCCS, which trailed by 22 with less than 10 minutes remaining, closed to within eight at the 1:29 mark. The comeback fell short, though, and fouls and free throws made the final margin wider than the play on the court merited.
Mortensen, who brought Caton into the collegiate coaching ranks, is retiring from coaching at the conclusion of this season. That coaching career now has at least one more game to go as Mortensen and the Grizzlies will head to Pueblo Saturday to make the 11-year coach's first RMAC Shootout appearance.
"It was kind of a win-win situation for me," said Caton. "If we had won the game, it would have been huge. But I still feel like I'm a part of this here at Adams State with coach Mortensen and some of the guys I recruited.
"I'm glad that he's able to go out with a year like this."
Bly McGuire led UCCS (16-12) with 29 points and 13 rebounds in his final game. Nic Fuller added 21 points and Eric Davis had 10.
Five players logged double digits for Adams State (15-12), which will face Nebraska-Kearney in the conference semifinals on Saturday.
With 5:08 remaining and the Grizzlies leading 79-64, somebody pulled the fire alarm, delaying the game for a little over 10 minutes. The Mountain Lions probably wished it had been pulled an hour and a half earlier.
Ironically, Mortensen's storybook finish was made possible by a nightmarish beginning by UCCS.
Over the first 10 minutes, the Mountain Lions looked like a team that was making just its second trip to the payoffs in 20 years. Adams State held UCCS to just two field goals over that period, mostly because of atrocious Mountain Lions shooting. The Grizzlies dominated in every way possible and it showed on the scoreboard as Adams State raced to a 30-5 lead.
"In the beginning, we just couldn't hit any shots," said McGuire.
Having spotted Adams State a nearly insurmountable lead, UCCS managed to close the half with a 25-12 run, capped by a long, buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Eric Davis, that cut the deficit to 42-30 at the intermission.
And while the loss marked the ending of a season, the standing ovation given the team afterward by the 150 or so fans who made the trek to Alamosa showed how much they appreciated what Caton has brought the program. He's brought a beginning.
"I'm proud of our team and the strides we made this year," said Caton. "These guys have really done a great job and we've surpassed a lot of expectations.
"They've really paved the way for the future of UCCS."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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