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NMHU takes aim at Shootout

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By Dave Kavanaugh

In their only previous meeting this season, Colorado Christian narrowly defeated New Mexico Highlands 65-61 on Jan. 8 in Lakewood, Colo.

So coach Joe Harge and his Cowboys will be seeking payback Friday in the semifinals of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout, the league’s postseason basketball championship tournament.

The Cowboys (19-9 overall, 12-7 RMAC) and Cougars (12-15, 9-10) tip off at 5:30 p.m. at the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo, Colo.

The winner meets the victor of a 1 p.m. semifinal between defending champ Metro State (22-6, 14-5) and Colorado State-Pueblo (17-10, 11-8). The final is 5 p.m. Saturday in Pueblo.

Metro’s Roadrunners now loom as the clear favorite, but favorites have had a tough time so far.

Upsets were the order of the day Tuesday in the opening round of the tournament, and at least in theory, that paves a somewhat easier path for the Cowboys this weekend.

Colorado State-Pueblo, the RMAC West’s fourth seed, stunned nationally ranked Mesa State, the division’s No. 1 team, 73-65 in Grand Junction, Colo. The Mavericks had swept the regular-season series with NMHU.

Highlands’ own 90-80 win at Fort Lewis was technically an upset, being that the Skyhawks were the home team and the No. 2 team in the West. (Never mind that the third-seeded Cowboys had swept FLC in the regular season.)

Over in the East Division, another No. 4 seed, Colorado Christian, surprised No. 1 Colorado School of Mines 79-73 in overtime on the Orediggers’ home floor in Golden, Colo.

Metro’s 85-62 rout of Colorado-Colorado Springs was the only first-round game to follow script. Metro is the No. 2 seed in the East.

Highlands swept CSUP this season 88-75 and 78-76 but lost its only meeting with Metro 97-79 back on Jan. 15.

Roman Andrade, who led all scorers at Fort Lewis with 31 points, is averaging 24.1 a game. Chop Tang (14.8), Mindaugas Markevicius (11.3), Chris Dunn (11.2) and Kelvin Franklin (9.8) are the Cowboys’ other leading scoring threats.

Dunn and Tang are also averaging a team-best 5.7 rebounds a game apiece.