Only perennial league favorite Metro State prevented New Mexico Highlands from winning the 2010 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout in men’s basketball this past March.
Highlands had been a preseason coaches’ poll pick to win the RMAC but it was the Roadrunners who reclaimed their usual spot near the top of the league standings, and it was the Roadrunners who went into the Shootout final as the favorite. Still, NMHU nearly pulled off the upset, ultimately falling 83-79.
In the wake of that exciting final, both squads earned NCAA Division II regional tournament berths.
On Friday night, Highlands and Metro play for the first time since the Shootout. The RMAC opener for both schools tips off with women’s action at 6, followed by the men at 8.
Metro (3-1) is ranked 11th in the nation among Division II men's hoops programs according to the Nov. 23 NABC poll. Reggie Evans is back to lead the Roadrunner offense and is averaging 13.5 points a game. Jonathan Morse has been strong, putting up 11.5 points and 11 rebounds a contest.
The Cowboys (3-0 after Monday night’s 86-73 win over Northern New Mexico College) are doing pretty well themselves. While the team misses the production of Roman Andrade, Chris Dunn, Rashad Peterson and others, Thomas Manzano, Chris Newsome, Ryan Daniels and Derek Freeman have joined returning off guard Mindaugas Markevicius to pick up much of the scoring load.
Manzano is averaging 22 points a game on 58 percent shooting.
Newsome is averaging 12.7 and is a 61 percent shooter. Daniels (10.3 points, four assists per game) and Markevicius (12 points a game) have shown ability to shoot the three-ball. The team has gotten good rebounding efforts off the bench from Morncilo Latinovic and veteran returner Ledreece Smith.
Among the reserves are three former prep stars from local District 2-3A — Justin Montoya and Daniel Gutierrez of Robertson and Ryan Gonzales of Pojoaque.
Notes: Manzano scored 27 and Smith 10 in Monday’s win.