The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball program will have a lot to celebrate Saturday night at Whalen Gymnasium.
The Skyhawks will honor their five seniors on senior night, celebrate fan appreciation night with half-priced admission, have a short ceremony in honor of head coach Jason Flores’ 100th win with FLC and, hopefully, a victory against the visiting Westminster College Griffins.
When the two teams met Dec. 15 in Salt Lake City, the Skyhawks slipped through the Griffins’ grasp with a basket from standout freshman Vivian Gray in the closing seconds to lift FLC to a 63-62 victory, which marked Flores’ 100th win at FLC.
The second meeting between the two has the potential to be equally entertaining.
“I think it will be a great game again,” Flores said. “They’re playing really well and have a lot of weapons. It’ll be a great game overall.”
Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
A win will be key for the Skyhawks (20-7, 14-7 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) in the conference standings and will have big seeding implications for the conference tournament. Depending on how the weekend unfolds, the Skyhawks could land anywhere from the second seed in the RMAC tournament to the seventh seed.
“That’s best case, worst case and everything in between,” Flores said.
Saturday could also mark only the third time all season FLC has its full roster healthy and available.
Junior Alyssa Yocky missed the first part of the season as she recovered from off-season ankle surgery. Shortly after she returned to the court, FLC lost senior guard Briana Clah to an ankle injury for a few weeks. Then, as the team readied for Clah’s return, Gray was sidelined with an undisclosed injury and missed the last few games.
But now, Gray, who leads the RMAC with 18.5 points per game and is FLC’s leading rebounder with 7.6 boards per contest, could return to the court for the regular-season finale after she returned to practice this week.
The Skyhawks will need everyone against the Griffins.
Westminster (15-10, 14-7 RMAC) would be in the same position as FLC for the tournament, but the Griffins aren’t eligible for the postseason while they wait out the final year of a transition period from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
“They’d be a conference tournament team if they were eligible,” Flores said. “They’re playing really, really well and have girls who can score inside and outside.”
Denise Gonzalez and Hunter Krebs have paced Westminster this season. Gonzalez, a junior guard, leads the team with 14.9 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Krebs, a freshman forward, has averaged 14 points per game and has matched Gonzalez with 5.3 rebounds per contest.
The Griffins also boast the highest shooting percentage in the conference at 42.9 percent.
FLC has been no slouch itself this season, especially at home. The Skyhawks are 13-1 at home this season – the only loss coming to conference-leading Colorado State University-Pueblo, 63-61, on Feb. 3.
Throwing out two wins against NAIA Northern New Mexico College, which came by a combined 105 points differential, FLC has outscored its opponents by an average of 16.3 points per game inside Whalen.
While Gray has been the dominant factor, the Skyhawks are far from a one-woman show.
Senior guard Astrea Reed ranks second on the team with 13.7 points per game. She’s the only other player to average double-digit scoring, but the Skyhawks have plenty of options around her and Gray.
Kayla Herrera is coming off a career night against Adams State on Tuesday in Alamosa, in which she scored 36 points on 11-of-15 shooting. Jordan Carter has been solid all season in the post and can knock down midrange jump shots with regularity. And Clah can score from all three levels and leads the team with 3.3 assists per game.
After the game, FLC will honor its five seniors – Clah, Shelby Patterson, Reed, Natalie Stillwell and Kelsey Wainright – for senior night.
“There have only been I think 10 20-win seasons in program history, and these seniors have been part of two in a row; that’s a great accomplishment,” Flores said. “With the resources we have, who we compete against and the league continuing to get bigger and better, that’s something to hang your hat on.
“Beyond that, we’re in a position where we control our destiny heading into the postseason, and they’ll be a big part of how we finish and what we want to do. Their legacy isn’t done, yet. It’s good to get to this point, but they’re not done yet.”