By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — They won’t make the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament, but Eastern New Mexico University’s women have a chance to put a nice finish on an up-and-down year when they close out Lone Star Conference South Division and regular-season play this weekend.
The Zias (11-14, 5-7 South), coming off road wins against Texas A&M-Commerce and Midwestern State, host Texas Woman’s tonight and Texas A&M-Kingsville on Saturday at Greyhound Arena.
ENMU’s men, meantime, finish their season on Saturday against Kingsville.
The Zias have also been competitive despite essentially being without their top two returning players from 2003-04 — Elizabeth Richards decided not to play this year, while Laci Lee played in just nine games before a foot injury brought her season and career to a premature end.
TWU (10-14, 3-9) and Kingsville (6-19, 2-10) are dangerous despite being at the bottom of the division, but ENMU acting head coach Dustin Klafka said he likes the way the Zias are playing.
“I thought we played as well last weekend as we have all year,” Klafka said. “Commerce is as good as anybody, and Midwestern is playing a lot better than they were the first time we played.
“These aren’t going to be any rollovers for us. TWU gives us some matchup problems, and they’ve got one of the fastest players in the conference (in sophomore point guard Matalya McBath.”
Kingsville has also picked up its play of late, highlighted by an overtime win at home on Saturday over division-contending Abilene Christian.
It would be easy to wonder “what if” for the Zias, but Klafka said they’ve come pretty close to playing to their potential.
“I’ve probably been pretty hard on the girls this year, wanting them to overachieve,” he said. “And they probably have — we’ve beaten some pretty good teams.
“They’ve really given themselves a chance all year. In the type of situation we’re in, that’s really all you can ask.”
ENMU’s men have also gone through more than their share of problems after winning back-to-back South titles in 2003 and 2004.
While Kingsville is playing for seed in the conference tournament, the Hounds are playing for pride. They’ve competed in most games, but personnel losses and inconsistent play have contributed to their losing record.
The pressure is more on the Javelinas (16-9, 7-3), but ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan would gladly trade places.
“You never want to be in this position, but that’s where we are,” he said. “We have to do it for the (seniors); they’ll want to finish up with as good a home game as they can.”
Kingsville swept the Hounds last year, handing them their only South losses, and beat them again 85-72 in January at Kingsville behind a 23-point, 17-rebound outing from senior forward Robert Hamilton.
“(Javs coach Pete Peterson) has done a good job of putting (the program) together,” Scanlan said. “They’ve really played well.
“We have a matchup problem (with Hamilton); we’ve struggled with that all season long, trying to find one more guy to cover that (inside) position.”
What: ENMU (9-17, 2-9) vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville (16-9, 7-3), 7 p.m. Saturday, in a Lone Star Conference South Division game.
Radio: KSEL-FM 95.3.
Of note: Saturday is the final game for four ENMU seniors — Jamaal Hunnicutt and Irshaun Pinckney, who have played four years, and Jamal Washington and Edmound Elzy, who have been here two years. Washington has played only seven games this season due to injury, and the Greyhounds may seek a medical redshirt for him. … Kingsville, which swept ENMU last season in finishing second to the Hounds in the South, has already locked up one of four LSC tournament berths from the division. Kingsville won the earlier meeting at home 85-72, and leads ENMU in the all-time series 27-16. … The Javelinas have won three in a row after a three-game losing streak, including two setbacks to Midwestern State. … Kingsville lost PG Remi Yusuf for the year to injury in preseason, but has one of the top players in the LSC in 6-5 senior F Robert Hamilton, who averages 15.8 ppg and 10.9 rpg. Four players are averaging double figures in scoring for the season. … Kingsville’s top five players have played in every game while making all but seven of 125 possible starts.
What: ENMU (11-14, 5-7) vs. Texas Woman’s (10-14, 3-9), 7 p.m. Thursday, and vs. Texas A&M-Kingsville (6-19, 2-10), 5 p.m. Saturday, in Lone Star Conference South Division games.
Radio: None Thursday; KSEL-AM 1450 on Saturday.
Of note: ENMU seniors playing their final games are Loren Scarlett, Mika Robertson and Casey Rodriguez. A fourth senior, Laci Lee, has been sidelined by a foot injury since the Christmas break. … TWU got off to a 9-3 start, but has lost 11 of its last 12. The Pioneers snapped a nine-game losing streak on Feb. 12 by beating Midwestern State 74-57. … Leaders are 5-4 sophomore G Matayla McBath (17.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg) and 6-2 junior F Ashley Browning (13.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg). McBath, a junior college transfer, is averaging 19.3 ppg in South play while Browning sat out most of last year due to injury after transferring from Division I TCU, where she played in 59 games over two seasons. … The Pioneers are one of LSC’s top teams from the free throw line at 72 percent, but shoot only 37 percent from the floor and 27 percent from 3-point range. … Kingsville has split in its last four games, including a 79-78 overtime upset of Abilene Christian on Saturday, but the Javs are yet to win consecutive games this season. … Top players are 6-1 junior P Aasia Betts (11.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and 5-9 sophomore F Angelo Trotter (10.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg). … ENMU beat both teams on the road earlier, and leads all-time against Kingsville 21-20 and TWU 23-8.