Down three starters with their head coach and half of the available players all dealing with illness, the Skyhawks didn’t have the firepower to hang with a nationally-ranked team on the road Friday night in Grand Junction.
No. 22 Colorado Mesa University outscored Fort Lewis College 22-14 in the first quarter and 25-10 in the third quarter to secure a 78-53 win inside its home Brownson Arena. The win gave the Mavericks (21-3, 18-2 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) a season sweep of the Skyhawks (11-15, 7-13 RMAC).
“They usually shoot at will at home. That definitely happened,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said with his voice nearly muted by pneumonia one week after he battled flu on the FLC bench during a weekend sweep of Westminster College and Dixie State.
“That third quarter, they really shot the ball well. We had some defensive breakdowns that allowed them to get some of those looks off.”
FLC was without junior captain and do-it-all guard Kayla Herrera, who injured an ankle in last Saturday’s win against Dixie State. The Skyhawks also have played without freshman guard Alyssa Adams since she tore an Achilles tendon Jan. 4 at Metro State University. FLC senior guard Kelsey Wainright also has been out much of the season with a lingering injury.
Without Herrera, FLC inserted sophomore Tanisha Begay into the starting lineup. The streaky shooter from Shiprock had a career night with 19 points on 6-of-12 shooting, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.
“That was huge,” Flores said. “We’re looking forward to watching somebody like her gain confidence and knock those shots down. She’s capable, and it was nice to see. Offense is hard when you’re a freshman or sophomore trying to find it, even when you do all the right things. It’s the junior and senior year where things come to fruition. Hopefully, that’s the case with her.”
FLC senior forward Alyssa Yocky had 10 points and 14 rebounds in her first game since being named the RMAC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season. Aubre Fortner added 10 points and four rebounds off the bench.
The Mavericks were led by Natalie Bartle, who scored 22 points off the bench. Kelsey Siemons scored 11 points, while Sydni Brandon had 10 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Jaylyn Duran finished with 10 points on 4-of-14 shooting. Mesa shot 49.2 percent from the field in the game and made 11-of-26 shots from 3-point range. FLC shot 30.2 percent.
FLC will travel to Gunnison to play Western Colorado University (16-8, 12-8 RMAC) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s just hard,” Flores said. “We’ve lost three starters and other players have gone down. We only had nine players available and five with their own injuries and sickness. We’re on fumes, but we’re going to battle through it.”