In almost any tense, back-and-forth contest, victory comes down to who makes the last run.
Thanks to Metro State freshman Brandon Jefferson, that run belonged to the Roadrunners.
A quick 7-1 spurt in the final two minutes gave Metro State a six-point cushion, and Metro State hit its free throws down the stretch to hold off the Fort Lewis College mens basketball team 85-78 and hold on to first place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference on Saturday at Whalen Gymnasium.
I think we got a little tired, and we didnt just get through that fatigue and cut harder, and we got stagnant and put up long shots, senior DeAndre Lansdowne said.
Fort Lewis battled back from an eight-point deficit early in the second half to turn the game into a seesaw battle that wound its way to a 70-all tie on a Kyle Behrens basket with 2:19 remaining.
But Jefferson, who finished with 24 points, broke the tie with his fifth 3-pointer of the game and fourth of the half for a 73-70 lead. Quaran Johnson hit a pair of free throws, and Jefferson would hit two of his own after Behrens split a pair of his own.
David Kanyindas circus 3-pointer cut the lead to 77-74 with 45 seconds left, but an easy Jonathan Morse layup at the other end extended the lead back to five.
Kanyinda had a chance to put FLC on the doorstep when Jefferson fouled him behind the 3-point line, but the reigning league offensive player of the week hit just one free throw, part of a 1-for-7 showing at the line for the sharpshooter.
As a whole, the team hit just 12 of 28 attempts.
The Roadrunners (14-2, 11-1 RMAC) hit six free throws, sandwiched around a Matt Billups 3, to seal the deal.
We just havent shot free throws well at home. Its a thing where youre 0-for-0 every time we shoot, FLC head coach Bob Hofman said.
The perimeter shooting by Metro State broke the backs of the Skyhawks (13-3, 9-3 RMAC).
Jefferson hit four, and Reggie Evans, who also scored 24 points, hit three in a 7-of-8 performance from deep in the second half.
The first half was played essentially to a stalemate. The story of the half for Fort Lewis was Josh Cassaday, who had a putback dunk and finished an alley oop en route to seven first-half points.
The putback capped the play of the night.
Cassaday scaled high for a block, which was saved by a sprawling Kanyinda. After Torrey Udall missed a contested layup at the other end, Cassaday slammed home the rebound, bringing the estimated crowd of 1,783 to a fever pitch.
However, the Roadrunners followed the dunk with a 9-3 burst soon after, and the teams battled to a 34-33 halftime score in favor of Metro State.
One of FLCs most dependable players, Matt Morris, was hampered by two quick first-half fouls which limited him to just five minutes in the frame.
The 6-6 Durango native couldnt find a rythym afterward and finished with just five points and two rebounds.
I think sometimes when he gets those early fouls, sometimes hes so conscious of the next foul that it makes it hard for him to guard, Hofman said.
Lansdowne led FLC with 16 points, followed by Behrens with 13, Kanyinda with 12 and Cassaday with 10.
Morse had 14 to go with Johnsons 13 and Glenn Millers 10 in supporting roles for Metro State.
FLC now has to hope Metro State gets upended at least three more times to have a shot at the RMAC crown.
More importantly, the Skyhawks must handle their own business over the last 10 games.
Its definitely not over. Hopefully well keep working hard each day, Lansdowne said.