Fort Lewis College has great depth, and the Skyhawks had to dig deep Tuesday in their second overtime contest in as many games.
With the tall and tough Adams State University Grizzlies visiting the No. 15 Skyhawks inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango, FLC found itself in a game against the Grizzlies and itself. As the difference in second-half fouls hit 13-3 in favor of Adams State with 10 minutes still to play in a three-point game, the Skyhawks’ bench delivered when the team needed it most. Still, Adams State’s Brandon Sly hit 3-pointer with two defenders in his face with 1.9 seconds to play in regulation. The shot tied the game at 90-90 and sent it to overtime.
With Daniel Hernandez fouled out the final 3 minutes, 3 seconds of regulation, FLC turned to bench players such as DJ Miles and Alex Semadeni. Paired with the play of senior Rasmus Bach, the Skyhawks ran away from the free-throw line to secure a 103-96 victory and move to 8-1 overall and 5-0 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to move into first place. No. 6 Colorado Mines (8-0, 4-0 RMAC) is the only other unbeaten team in the RMAC.
“These are hard games,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “We’re still trying to learn how to play. We lost some key seniors to fouls. I’m so proud of our group for being tough and finding ways to win as we blend together.”
Tuesday’s game was another knockdown, drag-out fight for the Skyhawks in the highly-competitive RMAC. Adams State brings the most height and length in the RMAC. The Grizzlies wouldn’t go away, even after FLC extended its lead to 80-69 behind a 10-2 run with seven minutes to play.
Adams State grabbed a 92-90 lead in overtime, but Semadeni made four consecutive free throws, Bach buried a key jumper and went 2-of-4 from the foul line down the stretch, and Miles closed out the game with perfect free-throw shooting. Brandon Wilson also came up with clutch rebounds and played big inside all night.
Marquel Beasley helped FLC keep the 3-point lead in regulation before Sly tied the game. In traffic, he fell to the ground as he threw up a shot that fell. Beasley finished with 15 points, as did Semadeni and Wilson. Miles scored a game-high 16 points and had four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
“Coming off the bench, it gives me time to see how the game is being played,” Miles said. “With (Hernandez) going out, I came in attack, attack, attack and tried to be a good point guard for the team and hopefully get a win. It didn’t change anything for me.”
Riley Farris added 12 points and four rebounds off the bench to give FLC seven players in double figures.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a box score with seven guys in double figures,” Pietrack said. “I love the balance of our team right now.”
FLC won the rebound battle 38-31 and had eight on the offensive end that led to 11 second-chance points. Wilson had a team-high seven rebounds.
Semadeni added five rebounds and an assist to go with his 15 points, and Pietrack said he played like a “True ’Hawk” in the big game.
“I feel like my role is to be an energy guy,” Semadeni said. “When I come off the bench, that’s what I have to bring. It was kind of dead in here tonight with finals, so we had to bring the energy ourselves.”
The Skyhawks survived a game in which they shot only 4-of-16 from 3, and Bach didn’t score until there was less than four minutes to play in the first half. He finished with 11 points, eight assists and four rebounds but struggled with six turnovers, and most came in the first half.
The Skyhawks held a 45-34 halftime lead, but the second-half fouls allowed the Grizzlies to hang tough.
Adams State was led by the 22 points for Shane Johnson, who also hit a big 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation. Sly finished with 21 points and four assists but committed five turnovers. Mike Thomas had 17 points and nine rebounds inside before fouling out with two minutes to go in overtime. Frederick Jackson added 13 points and five rebounds off the bench.
“We are tired from the weekend games right now,” Pietrack said. “A Tuesday night game is like a Thursday night NFL game. You gotta gut it out. Our team was picked high in the preseason, and a lot of that is what we’ve done the previous two years. As a staff, we’re proud of the guys wearing a target on their back and playing at a high level.”
Next up for FLC is a Friday road trip to Salt Lake City to play Westminster.
“We’re the first to five wins in our league,” Pietrack said. “We will get ready for a top-five Division II game of the week with us and Westminster.”