By Dave Wagner
Eastern New Mexico University’s basketball teams will be out to avenge close regular-season losses on Tuesday night when they begin play in the Lone Star Conference’s postseason basketball tournament.
The ENMU men (22-7), who on Saturday clinched their second consecutive South Division championship, host Southwestern Oklahoma (17-10) in a 7 p.m. tipoff at Greyhound Arena. The women (16-11), the South’s No. 4 seed, travel to North champion Northeastern State (21-6) for a 5 p.m. (MST) tipoff in Tahlequah, Okla.
The women’s contest is part of an LSC tournament doubleheader, with the NSU men hosting West Texas A&M in the second game. The Zias lost to NSU 53-49 at Tahlequah on Dec. 6.
If they are to pull the upset, though, they’ll have to do it without two starters — junior guard Laci Lee (high right ankle sprain) and senior post Jereena Bosket (concussion), both injured in the second half of Saturday’s 75-42 loss at Abilene Christian.
Lee’s ankle is simply too tender to allow her to play, ENMU women’s coach Dan Buzard said Sunday night, adding that the Zias are being cautious with Bosket because it’s her second concussion in two years.
He said it’s possible one or both could be ready for the semifinal round on Friday if Eastern upends the Lady Reds. South champion West Texas A&M would host the final two rounds of the tournament, if the Lady Buffs win their quarterfinal contest on Tuesday against Tarleton State.
Buzard said sophomore Kristi McGuire, who started the Zias’ first nine games, will move into the lineup for Lee while junior Tiana Bryant gets the call for Bosket.
“We’re going to go give them everything we’ve got,” Buzard said. “I look for us to play well and have some kids step up to try to make up for the absence of Laci and Jereena.”
NSU has had a strong season, but is coming off a 59-50 loss on Saturday at Cameron, a win that gave the Lady Aggies the North’s No. 2 seed.
The Zias had lost only one game all season by more than 10 points before falling at Angelo State (70-48 on Thursday) and at ACU.
Buzard said it wasn’t from lack of effort.
“As for our shooting, we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn,” he said. “But we still played hard.
“Those are both talented teams that played well, and they deserved to win.”
The ENMU men lost at Southwestern 51-49 in January, one of their poorest offensive performances of the season.
“We didn’t play very well,” ENMU men’s coach Shawn Scanlan said. “It was not a very good game at all; we just didn’t have much going that day.”
The Bulldogs upended North runner-up Northeastern State 80-77 on Thursday, but closed the regular season with a 64-53 loss to third-place Central Oklahoma on Saturday.
Scanlan said the Bulldogs, coached by former NSU assistant Scott Reed, play a relatively deliberate style similar to the Redmen.
“They’ve got a good team,” he said. “The problem for us is a lot of times they play four smaller players with a post, so they cause matchup problems.
“I think we’ll be more focused for this game, but they’re a pretty well-disciplined team. We just never played well enough (the first time) to get the game on our terms.”
North champion Tarleton State is set to host the semifinals and finals, but that could move to Greyhound Arena if the Hounds win and the Texans are upset on Tuesday by Midwestern State.