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Men’s basketball finishes regular season undefeated in WAC

The New Mexico State men’s basketball team finished its regular conference season undefeated by beating California Baptist University 83-50 in an enthralling home game at the Pan American Center last night. The Aggies finished their season with a 19-game winning streak and a record of 25-6 overall (16-0 WAC), while the Lancers fell to a record of 21-9 overall (10-5 WAC).

Johnny McCants pushes past a Cal Baptist defender last night in the Aggies’ final home game of the season. The Aggies finished the regular season 25-6 and a perfect 16-0 in WAC play. (Photo by Kayleigh Getkin/Kokopelli)

Trevelin Queen led the Aggies in scoring with 19 points and three assists, with Ivan Aurrecoechea following closely behind with 13 points. Defensively, Aurrecoechea and Johnny McCants led the way for the Aggies with eight rebounds each. Milan Acquaah led the Lancers with 15 points and four rebounds.

The Aggies started the game on a positive note as five of the six seniors stepped onto the court accompanied by roaring applause from the fans that filled the Pan Am. Aurrecoechea won the tipoff for the Aggies, giving the team the momentum to progress to a 12-1 lead within the first five minutes of the game. The Aggies maintained good offense and defense throughout the first half, while the Lancers played with a sloppy offense, giving up five turnovers within the first eight minutes of the game.

As the first half continued, the crowd grew louder with each basket and rebound the Aggies made. By halftime, the crowd became nearly deafening as the team walked off the court with a 26-point lead.

Trevelin Queen directs his teammates as they take an early lead last night against California Baptist. Queen led the way for NMSU with 19 points. (Photo by Kayleigh Getkin/Kokopelli)

The beginning of the second half saw the Aggies playing a bit sloppier in terms of offense, but it was still enough to strengthen their lead. The fans seemed to feed off the energy of the Aggies because as their lead against the Lancers grew, so did the volume of the screams filling the arena.

As the game dwindled down to the last five minutes, Coach Chris Jans began pulling out the senior Aggie players and subbing in some of the newer additions to the team. As each senior was pulled off the court, they were greeted by an uproar of applause from the crowd.

The applause didn’t diminish, however, when the seniors left the court because the new lineup continued to maintain the lead against the Lancers. The crowd especially took notice when this season’s fan favorite from Las Cruces, Bryce Rewalt, scored two points after rebounding his own missed free throw.

“Most of you probably know that it’s not paradise every day in the practice gym, but these kids are the core of who we’ve been for the last three years and I’ll forever be grateful for what they’ve done.”

As the final seconds of the clock ticked down, the crowd began filing out, knowing their team had finished its final home game of the season with a 33-point lead. Not everyone left at the end of the game, though, as many fans stayed for the senior night ceremonies in which graduating seniors were recognized for the work they put into the NMSU men’s basketball team.

The six seniors who were recognized were Terrell Brown, Ivan Aurrecoechea, AJ Harris, Trevelin Queen, C.J. Bobbitt and Shunn Buchanan. All six seniors walked across the court with their loved ones and were presented with their framed jerseys.

Left to right: Coach Chris Jans, Ivan Aurrecoechea and Jaylie Reints pose for a photograph as Aurrecoechea is presented with his team jersey following last night’s final home game of the season. (Photo by Kayleigh Getkin/Kokopelli)

Once all the seniors had been recognized, Coach Jans shared a few words with the audience about what this team means to him. “Most of you probably know that it’s not paradise every day in the practice gym, but these kids are the core of who we’ve been for the last three years and I’ll forever be grateful for what they’ve done,” he said.

While he still had everyone’s attention, Jans also took the time to thank the fans, but especially the fans who stayed for the senior night ceremonies. “I’ve been doing this a long time and the percentage of people that stayed this long to honor these seniors says a lot about who you are and who these kids are.”

When Jans finished his speech, the players seemed to get emotional as they hugged each other with huge grins on their faces. Aurrecoechea expressed these emotions. “It’s a dream come true to be able to play alongside my teammates. They always believed in me. It was a pleasure to be an Aggie for the last two years,” Aurrecoechea said.

While this was the last game of the regular season for the NMSU men’s basketball team, it is not the end of “the dream.” The Aggies’ next game will be at the WAC tournament March 11-14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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