The Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team has gone into overtime in two of its first four Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference games. The Skyhawks have gone 0-2 in those games and now stare at a 1-3 conference record instead of 3-1.
Saturday night’s loss was a gut punch to the defending regular-season RMAC champion Skyhawks, who led for 35 of the 40 minutes in regulation against South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.
A bad final 10 minutes of the second half and big-time baskets from Troy Brady and Logan Elers of S.D. Mines helped send the game into overtime tied 64-64. The Skyhawks were outscored 12-3 in overtime to fall 76-67 at home inside Whalen Gymnasium, where FLC has lost only three times in the last three seasons.
Saturday’s overtime loss was reminiscent of the team’s RMAC-opening loss at Adams State, when the Skyhawks also went ice cold in the extra five minutes.
“Overtime games are 50-50 at the end there,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “To lose both of them is really hard. We’ve put ourselves in a tough spot. We’ll dig ourselves out. That’s all we can do. We’ve got really good people in our program that care. All we can do is slowly get better.”
FLC led 31-23 at halftime after Will Wittman hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer. The Skyhawks started the game red-hot shooting and raced out to a 13-4 lead, but FLC couldn’t sustain the start and finished the game shooting only 37.5 percent from the field compared to 53.4 percent for the Hardrockers.
S.D. Mines also outrebounded Fort Lewis 40-23 in the game, and FLC had only two offensive rebounds the whole game. Though the Hardrockers committed 18 turnovers, FLC turned those into only 13 points, while Fort Lewis’ 13 turnovers translated to 14 points for the opposition.
FLC was also outscored 14-2 on the fastbreak and 42-16 in the paint. Despite all of the lopsided stats, FLC still somehow led the majority of the game before going ice cold in overtime, when FLC went 0-of-6 shooting. That was largely thanks to a 10-of-28 effort shooting from 3-point range compared to 3-of-16 for the Hardrockers.
“We just didn’t play very good basketball the last 10 minutes,” Pietrack said. “Credit south Dakota School of Mines. We turned the ball over, missed some free throws down the stretch, didn’t get big rebounds, we just didn’t do anything well enough to win the game.”
Marquel Beasley was the only consistent offensive option for FLC down the stretch. He went back-and-forth with the Hardrockers the final 90 seconds of regulation to help force overtime. He finished with 21 points and four rebounds. Elers answered Beasley basket for basket with 21 points and six rebounds to go with four assists. Both stars played 41 minutes and finished 8-of-14 shooting.
S.D. Mines cut the Fort Lewis lead from 31-23 at halftime to 33-32 right away in the second half. FLC extended the lead to as many as six or seven points a few times in the second half and led 55-50 with 6:25 to play after Alex Semadeni got a steal and fastbreak dunk and Kireed Johnson added a 3-point basket moments later.
Allec Williams came up big for the Hardrockers down the stretch, as the bench player scored eight points, dished out five assists and collected five rebounds. He have the Hardrockers a 58-57 lead with three minutes to play, but a Beasley dunk gave FLC the lead back with 2:35 to go, and the Hardrockers were called for an illegal screen the next trip down the floor to give FLC a great chance to go up two possessions. But FLC turned it over, and Williams took a steal the length of the court for a dunk of his own.
Beasley tied the game at 62-62 with 1:15 to play with another big layup, and the crowd inside Whalen Gymnasium came alive with a chant of “defense.” But Elers stunned FLC with a miracle bank-shot from mid-range at the shot-clock buzzer. Beasley answered right back with another layup to tie the game at 64-64, and the Hardrockers held the ball looking for a final shot with 4.1 seconds the difference between the shot and game clocks.
Crowd noise got to the Hardrockers, though, and they never got a shot off before a shot-clock violation. FLC had a chance at a game-winning shot in regulation, but the inbounds play was well defended, and a pass from Semadeni to A.J. Sparks was never gathered by FLC, and it was the Hardrockers who had a chance at a three-quarters length shot to win the game at the buzzer. It was never on line, and the game went to overtime.
“It’s very disappointing, especially because we still had a timeout we could have used,” Pietrack said of not getting a chance at a game-winning shot. “Our execution in general wasn’t good enough to win a college basketball game. That’s on the coaches, and we will do everything we can to be prepared to play tomorrow.”
In overtime, FLC went ice cold, while Elers, Brady and Williams continued their assault.
“It’s competition and sport, and (Elers) played really well and made a bunch of tough shots,” Pietrack said. “There’s not much else you can say. It wasn’t our night, and Brady got really hot in the second half. Before you knew it, we were in trouble.”
Johnson finished with 12 points for FLC, as he made 4-of-9 3-point shots. Sparks finished with 14 points and three assists for FLC off the bench, an Otas Iyekekpolor finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots for the Skyhawks. Semadeni was held to four points on only four shot attempts, and he never made it to the foul line.
Brady finished with 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, and he had four assists for the Hardrockers.
Though at home, Sunday won’t be any easier for the Skyhawks, who will host Black Hills State (5-3, 4-0 RMAC) at 5:30 p.m. Sunday. The first-place Yellow Jackets have won three consecutive games in emphatic fashion since a 57-56 win against S.D. Mines to open RMAC play, with wins against Dixie State, Westminster College and Adams State all by double digits.
“We just gotta keep trying to blend everything the best we can,” Pietrack said. “We don’t have all the answers besides we’re gonna keep doing everything we can to get better.”