PUEBLO - Fort Lewis has spent an entire season trying to figure out how to play its up-tempo style with a 6-foot-9, 255-pound anchor in the middle.Simple: "Feed the bull," Skyhawks' senior point guard Jordan Brooks always says.
The bull, who scored 36 points in Friday's semifinal, was chased from the ring just 3 minutes into the second half of Saturday's championship with three quick fouls.
Just when the Fort Lewis College men's basketball team figures out the bull's diet, "I got into foul trouble," Kirk Archibeque said.
Fort Lewis, behind a pair of dominating double-doubles from Archibeque at the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout this weekend, played some of its best basketball of the season.
Only, perhaps, it was too one-sided.
Metro State, the No. 1 seed in the Shootout and the No. 11 team in the nation, pulled away from the Archibeque-less Skyhawks late in the second half to win its eighth conference championship.
Metro State, a record 28-5 in Shootout history, defeated No. 3 FLC 84-78 late Saturday night at the Colorado State Fair Events Center in Pueblo.
"I thought it was two very evenly matched teams," Skyhawks coach Bob Hofman said.
"We missed a few free throws, and, unfortunately, Kirk was only allowed to play 30 minutes.
"That's a good team," Hofman said.
Metro State (27-3) and Fort Lewis (24-9) played even for most of the first half. There were nine ties and 10 lead changes in the first 20 minutes alone.
Fort Lewis, on the bull's back, carried a 41-39 advantage to halftime. Archibeque had 13 points and seven rebounds - no fouls - in a full 20 minutes, and the Skyhawks outscored the Bullfighters by eight in the paint.
"I think in the second half, we got away from what we were doing," Brooks said.
"We took Kirk out of the game. He's a dominating post presence. We weren't getting layups. We were shooting 3s."
Two, precisely, from Durango High School alumni Trent Bowman and Ryan Jameson; Bowman hit a 3 from the top of the key to start the Skyhawks' second half, and Jameson side-stepped a defender and hit a 3 for their first six points of the half.
Bowman hit his second 3 at the 15-minute mark, and Fort Lewis had a 55-49 lead.
Two minutes later, Fort Lewis engineered an 8-0 momentum swing for a 15-point advantage with 12 to play.
Archibeque, from the top of the key, played the high-low with Brooks.
Reversing roles, Archibeque threw the ball over the top of the defense to Brooks. The senior point guard caught the ball over his shoulders, then hit a drop-step dunk to start the run.
DeAndre Lansdowne picked up a steal, then drew an intentional foul from Jesse Wagstaff. He hit both free throws.
Lansdowne scored a layup on the ensuing possession with an inbounds feed from Brooks.
Fort Lewis got a defensive stop. Bowman grabbed the defensive rebound, started the break to Lansdowne, who passed the ball upcourt to Brooks, who fired a one-handed bounce pass cross court to Archibeque.
Archibeque threw down a one-handed dunk with 11:55 to play to give FLC a 65-52 lead.
"They made a couple of shots," Hofman said of Metro's comeback. "They got the ball inside. They changed their defense to more of a sagging defense. They made a few adjustments, but mostly, they made shots, and we didn't."
The lead was erased with 7 minutes to play on Chris Robinson's jumper.
Wagstaff, the RMAC player of the year and the Shootout MVP, gave Metro State the lead with free throws.
"We left way too many points at the free throw line," Hofman said.
Fort Lewis was 20-for-36 (56 percent) from the free throw line.
Metro State was 33-for-38 (87 percent) from the free throw line.
"Next week, we just gotta knock 'em down," Hofman said.