Roadrunners come up short against Aggies

By Esteban Ramirez
Sports Editor

The CSU Bakersfield men’s basketball team almost overcame the size of New Mexico State University and almost overcame a double-digit deficit in the second half.
However, in the end, the Roadrunners came up short as they fell 57-53 to the Aggies in the semifinals of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on March 13.
“We’re just disappointed that we are going home because we came here to win, but I’m [really] proud of our guys,” CSUB coach Rod Barnes said. “I thought this was one of the more passionate games we’ve had all season. I thought our guys matured. I told them that this is a team that started 1-10. We lost a lot of close games and we could’ve packed our bags, a lot of guys could have quit, gotten suspended or did the wrong things. So this speaks about the character of this group of guys.”
CSUB (14-19) came out strong holding on to the lead for most of the first half, but thanks to 6-foot-10 senior center Tshilidzi Nephawe, who had 11 points and eight rebounds in the first half, NMSU (22-10) was able to go into halftime with a 28-23 lead. The Aggies then came out strong in the second half and built a 50-39 l

CSUB junior forward Kevin Mays shoots a layup against the New Mexico State University defense at the Orleans Arena on March 13. Photo courtesy of Mark Nessia
CSUB junior forward Kevin Mays shoots a layup against the New Mexico State University defense at the Orleans Arena on March 13.
Photo courtesy of Mark Nessia/The Bakersfield Californian

ead with 8:08 left in the game but then the Roadrunners stormed right back behind 22 points and six rebounds from their junior center Aly Ahmed.
The score 52-48 with under four minutes to go when Ahmed dished the ball to redshirt-senior forward Kregg Jones who threw down an emphatic dunk to cut the lead. However, NMSU responded back and took a 54-50 lead with 3:09 left in the game. CSUB tried to cut into that lead again, but three pointers by redshirt-senior guard Javonte Maynor and redshirt-sophomore guard Jaylin Airington rolled out and the Aggies were able to close the game.
CSUB was outrebounded by NMSU, 35-28 and had 12 fewer second-chance points.
“It was a tough game,” Ahmed said. “It’s tough to beat them. I think we did our best today and gave it our all. We were prepared for it since yesterday, but somethings didn’t go the way we wanted.”
Junior forward Kevin Mays had 10 points and Jones added six points off the bench.
“I learned a lot from the guys on this team,” Mays said. “In the beginning, it was tough. We lost a lot of close games that we should’ve won but they were all lessons that we have learned. Throughout the season, I had a feeling that we were going to be a special team because we stayed together. If we lost, we came back and fought harder. Guys kept motivating each other and kept pushing each other to get in the gym but this was a tough loss.
“I enjoyed it, but I personally think we should’ve won. I didn’t feel they were better than us. I just feel they came out on top, but we’ll be back and get them next time.”
NMSU will play No. 3 seed Seattle University on Saturday in the Orleans Arena at 8 p.m.