The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team held Colorado Mesa University to 26 percent shooting in the second half to help the Skyhawks to a 57-51 victory in a matchup of two of the best defensive teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Friday night at Whalen Gymnasium.
FLC head coach Jason Flores said he was proud of the defense holding the Mavericks to 51 points, and was even more pleased with the way the Skyhawks fought to win the defensive battle.
“I’m just glad we won the game, and the way we won it I think is going to help us somewhere down the road,” Flores said. “Everyone wants to play flawless and have it all clicking and it wasn’t. ... We needed to eke one out and I told the team we were gritty, which was great to see. We did what we had to do and we made sure we won the game, and that’s all that matters.”
The first half was back-and-forth. FLC led most of the half but never took control long enough to build a sizeable lead. The biggest advantage the Skyhawks had was five points.
FLC (7-1, 2-1 RMAC) held an 18-15 lead after the first quarter, but Mesa (8-1, 2-1 RMAC) outscored the Skyhawks 16-9 in the second quarter to take a 31-27 lead into halftime. Thirteen of the Mavs’ second-quarter points were off FLC’s five second-quarter turnovers.
The Skyhawks had trouble containing Mesa’s Erin Reichle in the first half, as she scored 22 of the Maverick’s 31 points after hitting five 3-pointers. But the second half was a different story for Reichle, courtesy of Kayla Herrera’s superb defense.
“(Reichle) had 22 at half, and we couldn’t let her have a 44-plus point game,” Flores said.
“It kept them in it and gave them a lead, so we needed to take her out of the game and let other people try to beat us.”
Herrera shadowed Reichle throughout the second half and held her to two points the rest of the game.
“I kind of went against our team principles and wasn’t really playing the team defense, I was just face-guarding her. I wasn’t in help-side when I was supposed to be, I was just sucked up on her. On purpose,” Herrera said. “My team, they stepped up and did the things I wasn’t doing because coach gave me the go-ahead to switch it around.”
With Herrera locking Reichle down, the Skyhawks held Mesa to 3-of-16 shooting in the third quarter and outscored the Mavericks 18-8 to take a 45-39 lead into the fourth.
Mesa got back within a few points a couple times late in the fourth quarter, but each time the Mavericks threatened to tie the game, the Skyhawks answered with a bucket to ignite the crowd.
“The larger the crowd, the better the game and the better the energy,” said FLC guard Astrea Reed, who scored five of her team-high 22 points in the fourth quarter. “But honestly, I’d have to give (the credit) to my teammates. They kept the floor spaced and moved off the ball to create a lot of opportunities, whether it was rebounds, putbacks, kicks and drives. The team was very spaced and it just helped me to be able to drive.”
Reed led the Skyhawks in scoring and collected nine rebounds. FLC was 6-of-7 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter – including 5-of-6 by Kelsey Wainright – and 14-of-17 for the game.
The Skyhawks outrebounded Mesa 48-36 and grabbed 16 offensive boards. Vivian Gray added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Skyhawks despite being double- and triple-teamed almost every time she touched the ball.
FLC will be back at Whalen Gym to host Western State (5-4, 1-2 RMAC) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s a different style that Western is gonna come with than what we saw tonight,” Flores said. “We’ll watch film on them. We’re ready for it. ... The quick turnaround is just a matter of making a few little adjustments defensively to the different style and having us play a little bit better.”