Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Broken down to its most basic objective, basketball rewards teams that make shots and punishes those who don’t.
On Friday, basketball punished the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team for its shooting woes.
Three of the Skyhawks’ starters had uncharacteristically poor shooting nights, and FLC hit just 35 percent from the field and 4 of 27 from 3, allowing Colorado Christian to come into Whalen Gymnasium and leave with a critical 79-69 win, the Cougars’ first win in 12 years in Durango, in a battle for Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference positioning.
“This went really bad,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “It was multiple players having off shooting nights. And they’re a really good offensive team. They lead the conference in scoring, and we topped that, too, giving up 79.”
Erika Richards shot just 3 of 14, Katerina Garcia 2 of 13 and Ashley Kuchar, hampered all night by foul trouble, just 3 of 9 as a typically solid shooting FLC squad went ice cold.
“I don’t really have an explanation for it,” guard Alex Easterbrook said. “We shot well all week, and we came in (Friday) in warmups, and I thought we were killing it. But we got into the game, and we kind of just went cold.”
A few turnovers by the Cougars late gave FLC a chance to eke out a win, but the inability to hit a big shot when needed buried FLC (8-8, 7-5 RMAC), now losers of consecutive games after a six-game winning streak.
Flores wasn’t as much dismayed by the bad shooting night, which happens from time to time, as he was the Cougars’ 79 points, saying that even if FLC would’ve shot better, it would’ve taken a shootout to emerge victorious, the kind of game FLC typically likes to avoid by using pressure defense.
“Even if we had a great shooting night, we would’ve had to outscore them, which is not what we need to do to win at home,” Flores said. “We gave up 79 points. That puts a lot of pressure on your offense, having to score in the 80s to win the game. We’re capable of that, but we shouldn’t have to rely on scoring in the 80s to win a game.”
“I feel like we lost track of (the players we were defending) a lot,” Easterbrook said. “There was a lack of communication between all of us that led to a lot of their baskets.”
The Skyhawks were paced by Easterbrook, who scored a career-high 23 points and hit all four 3s, and Christie Groh, who had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Richards also mustered 10 despite an off shooting night.
The Skyhawks trailed for most of the contest but pulled even at 53-all on a Richards jumper with 9 minutes to play in regulation. But the Cougars (10-6, 7-5 RMAC) used a quick 7-0 run to build the lead to 60-53, then held off FLC, building a lead as big as 10 points and burying free throws down the stretch.
Colorado Christian, which shot just 35 percent in the first half, hit at a 50-percent clip after intermission despite playing without star Christina Whitelaw, who’s appeared in just three games this season and remained out with an injury.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was not being able to protect the home court, marking the second such defeat for the Skyhawks in a building they’ve rarely lost in in recent years.
“(It hurts) a lot,” Flores said. “Not going to lie about it. And I told them that, and they know that. This weekend, I put out there, ‘You’ve got one opportunity at these two teams, and we’re going to be neck and neck the whole way.’”
Bre McBeth led the Cougars with 14 points, while Kayla Fakelman chipped in 12. Mariah Metoyer and Taylor Torres had 11 apiece, with Metoyer finishing with a double-double by pulling in 12 rebounds.
FLC will try and get back in the win column at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Colorado School of Mines at Whalen Gym.