Fort Lewis College had to fight nerves, a tough and physical Adams State University team backed by incessant fans and inconsistent officiating all night. In the end, it was a fight amongst Grizzlies that sent the FLC Skyhawks to victory.
No. 25 Fort Lewis College played in a physical grind of a game Friday night in the semifinal round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament. Despite trailing for almost the entire first half, the RMAC regular-season champion Skyhawks showed championship heart in the second half and outscored the Grizzlies 43-27 to earn a 87-74 victory inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango. The win moved FLC to 16-0 at home this season, 24-5 overall and into the RMAC tournament championship game for the third consecutive year under third-year head coach Bob Pietrack.
“I felt the second half defensively, considering our opponent, was the best second half that we’ve had,” Pietrack said. “I’m really proud of our team for answering the bell. Adams State came out really determined. I felt we were a little nervous. I don’t know why; don’t know if it’s just the fact we were hosting the tournament, but I felt we were a little nervous to start off.
“Once we got our feet wet and settled into the game, the crowd really helped us.”
Adams State (17-13) built a lead as large as seven points. Each time FLC got within one possession, the Grizzlies extended the lead. The Skyhawks finally took the lead at 50-49 behind two free throws from DJ Miles with 18 minutes, 31 seconds to play, and the Skyhawks never looked back from there. A Miles blocked shot led to a transition 3-pointer for Daniel Hernandez, which was assisted by Miles, and FLC led 53-49. That lead stretch to 58-51 when Marquel Beasley converted a traditional three-point play at the foul line.
FLC started to cause the Grizzlies fits with its tough defense, and turnovers added up quickly for Adams State in the second half. An Alex Semadeni fastbreak layup followed by a miracle shot from Miles and a beautiful post-move finish for Beasley gave FLC a 68-60 lead with 8:44 to play. Then everything fell apart for the Grizzlies.
Adams State All-RMAC First team guard Brandon Sly and Jarrett Givens got into a heated argument on the floor that escalated until the players were separated. Adams State head coach Russ Caton called a timeout, and the argument continued on the bench.
The Fort Lewis players urged the crowd for more noise and boasted big smiles as they went back to their bench.
“Not to sound cocky, but when that happened, I knew the game was over,” said FLC senior captain Rasmus Bach.
“We’ve had issues on our team a little bit, but nothing like that. That’s tough to come back from as a team. When I saw that, I knew we had this game.”
Caton’s crew came back together and tried to cut into the FLC lead, but the energized Skyhawks pulled away thanks to defensive stops.
“We challenge each other, and do it sometimes too vocally, to challenge each other to step up and bring more,” Caton said.
“One guy’s frustration turns into a heated argument with another guy. You wouldn’t know it, but everyone on our team are good teammates and chemistry has been a really positive thing for us all year. We bought into each other. It was heat of the moment and a challenge that could’ve waited for a timeout or something.”
When FLC got a spark, the home crowd helped carry the Skyhawks to the final buzzer.
“We knew if we could just guard, I said, ‘Guys, if we can get over the hump with a little bit of a lead, this crowd will get on their feet and carry us,’” Pietrack said.
“We got a stop, got a bucket, and Daniel Hernandez hit a big 3 and we didn’t surrender the lead the rest of the game.
“It’s very much a community effort with our team, a college effort. We’re Durango’s team right now, and we’re just thankful for the great support.”
Caton said he saw a switch flip with FLC, and his team couldn’t match it.
“Fort Lewis, there was a point in the second half where you could see their determination level step up,” he said.
“They’ve been in that situation a lot, and they know there is another level they need to go to to get it done, and we didn’t answer that soon enough.”
Bach led FLC with 20 points and seven rebounds. Wilson added 17 points, six rebounds and three assists before he fouled out with less than two minutes to play.
Beasley finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in only 28 minutes as he battled first-half foul trouble.
Miles added 13 points, Hernandez scored 12 and Semadeni was key off the bench with eight points, four rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot.
Sly led Adams State with 25 points. He scored 15 in the first half. Shane Johnson scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Frederick Jackson had 10 points and five rebounds. Givens was held to only two points on 1-of-6 shooting.
Now. FLC will prepare for Regis University, a team it beat twice in the regular season in closely-contest games.
“We understand tomorrow we have a great opponent that has won 13 in a row, that is really well coached and as talented of a team as we’ve played all year,” Pietrack said.
“We’re excited for the championship game tomorrow and the opportunity.”
FLC lost the RMAC championship game last year at Colorado School of Mines but beat Colorado Mines in 2016 for the RMAC tournament title in Durango.
Regis 89, Colorado Mines 83Regis guaranteed there would be a new RMAC men’s basketball tournament winner in 2018, as the Rangers knocked off defending champion Colorado School of Mines 89-83 on Friday night at Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
Jarrett Brodbeck got red-hot shooting for Regis (25-5), as he scored a game-high 26 points on 7-of-16 shooting that included a 5-of-9 performance from behind the 3-point line. Ty McGee added 21 points and iced the game with a blocked 3-point shot on one end and an alley-oop dunk on the other.
With Regis up only two points in the final 30 seconds, McGee was left open for a dunk that essentially ended the game with nine seconds to play.
“Give them all the credit in the world, they made big shots after big shots,” Colorado Mines head coach Pryor Orser said. “I thought we played really well and shot a high percentage, but they just made unbelievable shots. Every time we did something, they answered with a 3.”
Regis made 10-of-20 from 3-point range in the game. McGee did his damage from inside the arch and at the foul line, though.
“McGee was unguardable tonight,” Orser said. “He just beat us off the dribble. When they’re making 3s and spread it out, then they’re driving on us. They are a hard guard that way.”
Colorado Mines (22-9) was led in scoring by Luke Schroepfer, who scored 19 points with five made 3s. Michael Glen added 16 points and eight rebounds.
Regis’ Christian Little scored 14 points and dished out five assists, and he also had six rebounds in a great performance.
Saturday night, Regis will try to win the RMAC tournament championship for the first time in program history.
The Rangers likely clinched a spot in the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament, and Orser hopes Mines can sneak in and give the RMAC a third team in the tournament.