Brenden Boatwright was perfect, and the rest of the Skyhawks looked like a team playing without pressure and having fun Friday night. It was exactly what Fort Lewis College men’s basketball head coach Bob Pietrack wanted to see.
Boatwright, a redshirt freshman, scored a career-high 28 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting from the floor and a near-perfect 10-of-11 performance at the foul line. He also played strong defense in the game’s deciding final minutes against Colorado Christian star Braxton Tucker and helped lead Tucker into fouling out with a little more than two minutes to play. FLC closed out the game to secure a 81-72 win.
“We run a great offense,” Boatwright said. “I feel like we move the ball, share the ball. Tonight, my teammates were able to throw me open a few possessions and really helped me out with that. I really appreciate the effort to get me the ball and hope I can reciprocate that tomorrow, as well.”
The win ended a four-game losing streak for FLC (10-12, 5-11 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference), all of which came on the road, including losses to Colorado Christian (6-16, 4-12 RMAC) and Regis, and the Regis Rangers will visit Durango at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for FLC’s whiteout game.
“It feels really good to win a game,” Pietrack said. “It’s college athletics and it’s really hard. We were in every game on the road, so to come back home and to lead for 38 minutes and close out a game was excellent.
“I’m really proud of our guys for buying into what we want to do this week, which was to take some of the pressure off. We’ve had a program where we have a lot of pressure on us. We didn’t have that much pressure on us, and we played a bit looser and played well.”
Boatwright started the game 7-of-7 shooting in the first half and had 19 points at the break. He came off the bench and sparked the Skyhawks to a 44-32 halftime lead.
Behind the play of Tucker, Colorado Christian cut that lead down to 62-60 with eight minutes to play. Between Marquel Beasley and Boatwright, FLC was able to close out the Cougars.
“I think we just needed to recommit to getting the ball inside,” Pietrack said. “We kept going inside and it was 70-62 pretty quick. We definitely controlled the paint, controlled the rebounds. It’s a good win for us.”
Beasley finished with 19 points, with 15 in the second half. He added six rebounds, as did Boatwright.
“Just excited for him, keep giving him confidence, telling him what to do, keep relying on him,” Beasley said of Boatwright. “We rode the hot hand, and he came through. It’s exciting to see somebody like him, he’s come a long way, and it’s exciting to see him dominate tonight.”
Tucker fouled out with 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting for the Cougars. He also had seven rebounds. Jeremiah Hanson and Justin Engesser each had 13 points.
Alex Semadeni added 11 points and four assists for FLC. Will Wittman had 10 points, and point guard A.J. Sparks had six points and four big assists.
“It’s an honor to play every game,” said Semadeni, one of three seniors on the FLC roster along with Beasley and Otas Iyekekpolor. “It’s just fun to be out there with my guys. I don’t take it for granted. I’m gonna miss it as soon as its over – the grind, still trying to win every game and see where we are at the end of it. I’m going to make the most of limited time I have left.”
FLC will have a chance for another special moment Saturday against Regis, which beat FLC inside Whalen Gymnasium last year for the RMAC tournament championship. Regis (15-7, 12-4 RMAC) fell 78-70 to Adams State in Alamosa on Friday night and will come into Durango angry, with regional tournament hopes on the line.
“I think it will be a fun game tomorrow night,” Pietrack said. “They’re very good, a regional team, but tomorrow, it doesn’t really make a difference what you’ve done in the past, it’s about what you do in the next 40 minutes. We’re going to be excited to play. It wouldn’t make a difference who the opponent is. We cherish every game we have with each other and have fun. We don’t have pressure on us, they have pressure on them.”