Zias set to start division play early

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

It’s early to begin Lone Star Conference South Division play, but that’s what the Eastern New Mexico University women’s basketball team is about to do.

The Zias (2-0) will be in Canyon, Texas, to meet Adams State at 1 p.m. (MST) today before facing division rival West Texas A&M in the South opener for both teams at 5 p.m. (MST) on Saturday.

Meantime, ENMU’s men hit the road for the first time this weekend. The Greyhounds (1-2) play at Warrensburg, Mo., in the Central Missouri Classic, facing NAIA member Tabor (Kan.) at 4 p.m. (MST) today and host Central Missouri at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

First-year ENMU women’s coach Linden Weese, a former Texas Tech assistant, will match up against first-year WT coach Krista Gerlich, who played on the Lady Raiders’ 1993 NCAA national championship team and later was an assistant coach with Weese at Tech.

“I’ve known her since she was a little girl,” Weese said. “Her mom and dad played for my brother, Dean, at Spearman.

“(WT is) a team rich in tradition. I just want our kids to go in and fix our shoes up tight, and don’t have any fear in them. You have to beat them; they’re not going to beat themselves.”

The Zias have shown flashes of good play in wins over Oklahoma Panhandle State and New Mexico Highlands, but they’re still a work in progress.

“I’m excited,” senior guard Heather Brown said of facing a division rival this early. “It’s kind of soon for our first conference game, but I know we can win if we do the things we need to do.”

First, the Zias face an Adams State squad which struggled to a 4-23 mark in 2005-06 but returns seven players under first-year coach Kelly Kruger. So far, the Alamosa, Colo.-based Grizzlies (1-1) have beaten Alaska-Fairbanks and lost to Lubbock Christian.

“They shoot the ball pretty well, and they like to get out in transition,” Weese said.

Men’s coach Shawn Scanlan was happy to get a win on Tuesday over New Mexico Highlands, but said the Hounds aren’t doing anything particularly well at this point.

“We’re just trying to see if we can get better,” he said. “(Tuesday) wasn’t a pretty game. It was good to win, but we’re really up and down.”

Scanlan said one of the bright spots has been the play of senior walk-on Aaron Rodriguez, who went 31 minutes in a starting role against Highlands and contributed nine points, five rebounds and three steals. “I just think he played pretty solid,” Scanlan said.

Tabor (1-4) lost five key players to graduation from last year’s squad.

Meantime, Central Missouri (2-0) beat the Hounds 75-67 last December in the Las Vegas (Nev.) High Desert Classic en route to a 24-8 season that ended in a three-point loss to Tarleton State in the NCAA Division II South Central Region semifinals.