At the end of a back-and-forth, uncharacteristically sloppy first half, Fort Lewis College womens basketball guard Abby Jackson was blindsided by a screen from the much larger Ruchelle McCracken of Adams State.
The screen appeared not only to wake up Jackson, but the entire Skyhawks roster.
It definitely pissed me off a little bit because I thought it was a cheap shot, Jackson said.
After trailing 32-31 at halftime, No. 3 FLC used a renewed effort on the glass and improved offensive execution to top the preseason Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference favorites from Adams State 77-70 on Saturday at Whalen Gym.
As in the CSU-Pueblo game from last Friday, the Skyhawks (8-0, 3-0 RMAC) used a strong late-game surge to put away a pesky opponent. Trailing 57-52 with 6:26 remaining, FLC embarked on a 19-4 run to pull ahead 71-61 with 1:09 left.
We played a little bit more into their hands than I wouldve liked to, FLC head coach Mark Kellogg said. We played OK. I cant fault our effort, maybe our execution.
After the run, Fort Lewis weathered a couple late 3s from Crystal Loch, who led ASC with 17 points, and one by Vera Jo Bustos with strong free throw shooting by guards Katerina Garcia, who scored 17 points, and Jackson, who scored 12 of her 14 in the second half. Stephanie Beemans 11 in the frame equally were critical for FLC.
Garcia was key in the first half, scoring seven points in the first 10:30 of the half when offense was at a premium.
I want to come in and make a difference. I want to help out, Garcia said.
Jackson said Adams States ability to pack the lane and stymie FLCs drive-and-kick game was instrumental in the Skyhawks trailing at halftime.
They sunk in and took away the layups were used to getting the last few games.
Critical down the stretch were a pair of 3s by Mary Rose Paiz. Her triple with 3:19 left put FLC up 65-59, and her 3-pointer with 1:09 left capped the run and essentially iced the game.
Marys two shots were huge. They kept us in it until we could get a bit of separation, Kellogg said.
Dana Schreibvogel, the RMACs leading scorer entering Saturdays game, scored a game-high 19 while playing all 40 minutes. Despite battling frequent double teams, the 6-0 junior managed to keep pace by hitting several jumpers to loosen the defense before getting several one-on-one opportunities after halftime.
In the first half, Adams State (6-3, 1-2 RMAC) made hay by outrebounding FLC 20-11 and getting several wide-open looks from the high post. FLC turned the tide on those in the second half, outrebounding the Grizzlies 19-11 in the frame and collapsing on the high post.
Garcia and Jackson continued to play critical minutes together, particularly down the stretch, when both were involved in the crunch-time lineup. Both guards expressed a comfort level thats growing while sharing the floor together, and the cohesion manifests itself on both ends. The pair combined for seven of FLCs 15 steals on Saturday.
I trust Abby completely with the ball, pressure, Garcia said. Abbys the person I completely trust. ... If she pressures, I want to pressure.
Even though we havent played together long, we know where each others going to be, Jackson said.
FLC returns to action Dec. 19 when Mesa State comes to Durango for a 5:30 p.m. tipoff.