The Skyhawks let one get away Saturday night.
Up 56-44 with 5 minutes, 36 seconds to go in the game, the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team was outscored 20-2 the rest of the way and fell to Westminster College 64-58 in the Skyhawks’ final home game of the season at Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
FLC head coach Jason Flores said a lot went wrong for the Skyhawks in the final five minutes.
“We got tight and missed a lot of easy shots, had some turnovers, allowed them to shoot too good of a field-goal percentage in that stretch,” Flores said. “We still could have gotten a few stops that could have kept it at bay. We just lost momentum and got really tight, and we just couldn’t gain that back. We needed a couple easy shots to fall and they didn’t.”
The loss moved FLC into the No. 6 seed in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament next week. The Skyhawks will play their first-round game at No. 3 Black Hills State University on Tuesday in Spearfish, South Dakota.
Westminster, on the other hand, is done with its season, only because the Griffins (16-10, 15-7 RMAC) are ineligible for postseason play as they complete the final year of a transition period from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
“I’m really proud of them,” Westminster coach Shelley Jarrard said. “We’re 7-1 in our last eight games, and I’m just glad we’re moving in a positive direction. ... To end on a win, very, very few teams get to end their season on a win, so we get to feel good from that and hopefully have some momentum for next season. I’m proud of this group for going out with no postseason incentive and still get this done.”
Star freshman and RMAC-leading scorer Vivian Gray returned to the court for the Skyhawks (20-8, 14-8 RMAC) after she missed the last four games with injury and scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Aside from Gray, the Skyhawks struggled to knock down shots and were a combined 21-for-66 from the field for a shooting percentage of 32 percent. The first and third quarters were particularly tough for FLC, as the team was a combined 8-for-35.
“I just think it was a case of shots not going in,” Flores said of the first and third quarter. “I can think of maybe three possessions where we forced a tough shot. Other than that, there were things you shake your head or scratch you head about. We just needed to knock down more shots. That’s the game of basketball – put the ball in the hole.”
The Skyhawks found their offensive rhythm in the second quarter. Down 13-8, FLC went on a 15-0 run to take a 23-13 lead midway through the quarter.
FLC got its lead to 30-18 with a couple minutes left in the quarter, but the Griffins closed the second on an 8-0 run to go into halftime down 30-26.
The Griffins tied the game at 38 with 1:20 to go in the third quarter, then took the lead in the final minute with a runner from Denise Gonzalez.
FLC answered immediately with a basket from Reed that sent the game to the fourth tied 40-40.
The Skyhawks found its offense again in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Gray converted a three-point play, then hit a 3 on FLC’s next possession. After Gray’s triple, senior guard Astrea Reed stole the Griffins’ inbound pass and drew a foul. She converted both free throws to make it 48-40 with less than a minute coming off the clock.
FLC kept rolling in the fourth and got its lead to 56-44 with 5:36 remaining before Westminster called timeout to regroup and stage its comeback.
“Fort Lewis plays great defense and made us go one-on-one, so we had to adjust and tweak a few things,” Jarrard said of the final five minutes. “We spread the floor and got our big (Hunter Krebs) inside, and if they doubled, we would kick, and if not, we’d try to score one-on-one. We just had to make plays and score one-on-one and we did.”
Kaylee Carlsen led Westminster with 17 points, Sydnee Taylor had 13 points, Krebs added 12 points and Gonzalez finished with nine points.
No Griffin player had more than six rebounds in the game, but they spread out the boards, with Krebs, Gonzalez and Sicilee Williams snagging six rebounds each.
Reed finished with 13 points to be the only other FLC player in double figures. Kayla Herrera added nine points.
The Skyhawks will head to South Dakota on Monday to prepare for the Yellow Jackets (22-6, 16-6 RMAC).
“I’m glad we get to play on Tuesday after a loss and get it out of our system,” Flores said. “I think it’s be worse if we had a long stretch to dwell on it. I’m actually excited to be able to play on Tuesday.”