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BEYOND THE PRESSBOX

Aggies survive adversity, win share of WAC title; plus, prep playoff scores

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It wasn’t quite how the New Mexico State University men’s basketball team would have scripted it in a perfect world, but they will take the result.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, all the Aggies needed was one win to clinch a share of the WAC championship and more importantly the top seed in the conference tournament. But the Aggies suffered a road loss to Chicago State Feb. 26 and then a home loss to Stephen F. Austin March 2.

That turned Saturday, March 5’s home finale and senior night into a must-win situation against Utah Valley.

And the Aggies responded with a 62-46 win. The Aggies finished at 14-4 in the WAC, 24-6 overall and tied for first place with Seattle U and Stephen F. Austin.

“It wasn’t certainly how we drew it up, and I'll have to come to grips with that,” head coach Chris Jans said shortly after the win and subsequent on-court celebration. “I’m proud of the guys’ effort tonight. I thought we played pretty darn well for the most part.”

By virtue of a 3-1 record against Seattle U and SFA, NM State earned the top seed in the conference tournament and will next play at 7 p.m. Friday, March 11, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. At stake is an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for the winner of the conference tournament.

“It’s survive and advance now,” Jans said.

McCants’ big night

Sixth-year senior Johnny McCants, an Oñate High School product, played his final game in front of the hometown fans and it was a memorable one.

McCants finished with a double-double (11 points and 13 rebounds). In addition to his double-double, McCants added four assists, three blocked shots and a steal. With the win, McCants added to his program-best career win total (119) and became the first NM State player in program history to win four regular-season championships.

McCants also asked his girlfriend Samantha Melendez to marry him after the game at center court.

“What a storybook -- hometown boy, proposing to his future wife at center court after an illustrious career,” Jans said. “It is like a movie.”

High school playoffs

As of this writing, five Las Cruces area high-school basketball teams remain alive in the state playoffs after the first round March 4-5.

In boys 5A, No. 1-seeded Las Cruces High improved to 29-0 with a dominating 84-34 win over No. 16 Albuquerque at Las Cruces High.

In boys 1A, No. 3 Mesilla Valley Christian, 21-1, beat No. 14 Coronado 58-37.

In girls 5A, three Las Cruces area teams won their first-round games.

No. 5-seeded Las Cruces High, 22-7, beat No. 12 Clovis 50-41.

No. 6 Organ Mountain, 22-8, downed No. 11 Albuquerque 61-50.

No. 8 Centennial, 20-9, beat No. 9 Mayfield 39-34.

Check LasCrucesBulletin.com for the latest scores and results.

Dave Burge