Kayla Herrera went into Friday’s game averaging more than 10 points per game. Still, she wasn’t having the kind of success she’s accustomed to on the offensive end of the floor much of the season. That changed in a big way Friday.
After she stared 0-of-2 shooting, Herrera went on her own 8-0 run, including the first six points of the second quarter, to help put the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team up 19-14 against the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The rest of the Skyhawks fed off Herrera’s aggressive play after a mostly stagnant first quarter. FLC added to Herrera’s run and stretched it to 13-0 to take a 24-14 lead halfway into the second quarter. The Skyhawks kept up the aggressive mind-set on offense en route to a 67-50 home win inside Whalen Gymnasium.
Herrera had shot only 32.4 percent in 13 games going into Friday, when she shot 54.5 percent. Not only did Herrera score a game-high 15 points, she had her usual all-around game with six rebounds, four assists and five steals to only one turnover. It was a pair of Herrera steals that helped FLC (7-7, 3-5 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) erase an early deficit to trail only 14-13 after one quarter.
“I’ve been telling myself that I need to start being more aggressive and get to the rim, and I think tonight definitely helped with that,” Herrera said. “Getting to the rim, finding open players and finding my own shots, I think in the long run that’s really gonna help us out.”
Herrera didn’t attempt a shot in the third quarter but scored another four points early in the fourth to help put the game away. FLC head coach Jason Flores was able to give many of his starters rest in the game’s final five minutes with a lead as large as 61-41.
“My confidence finally came back,” Herrera said. “It was coming off my fingers really nicely. It felt good to get in the swing of it again.”
Sydney Candelaria added 13 points for FLC on 5-of-5 shooting from the floor, while Alyssa Yocky was a rebound shy of a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. That helped FLC to a 41-32 advantage on the glass.
“I always tell myself that even if I’m not scoring I can still rebound,” Yocky said. “It’s just effort. So, if I don;t have a good shooting night, I always try to get at least 10 rebounds just to do my part.”
Kaitlyn Romero was big early for FLC, and she finished with seven points as she started in place of injured freshman Alyssa Adams.
“After last week, we talked a lot about players stepping up, and that’s what we did,” Flores said. “We had some players step up and kind of take over the game, and that’s exactly what we needed.”
FLC’s defense was relentless and didn’t allow any UCCS player to score in double figures. Elly Johnson led the Mountain Lions with eight points off the bench. UCCS (5-9, 4-4 RMAC) shot only 30.9 percent from the field and 5-of-17 from 3-point range. FLC was 6-of-15 from beyond the arc.
The Skyhawks will try to climb further up the RMAC standings at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Colorado School of Mines (7-6, 4-4 RMAC), which beat Adams State 59-48 on Friday night in Alamosa.
“We have nowhere to go but to keep climbing and to dig out of what we put ourselves in,” Flores said. “Mines is gonna be a tough test. Rebounding is gonna be the key. We took care of tonight, and we’re excited about tomorrow and just kind of need to keep things going.”
Saturday’s game will be the second of a four-game home stand for FLC. It was the team’s first game at home with the students back on campus since Nov. 16.
“It’s a whole different energy being at home,” Yocky said. “We’re comfortable here, everyone shoots well here. It’s nice to be here for four home games and not have to travel. To be here in front of fans and a great student section, it just brings us the energy that we need.”