After the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team opened its international trip to Costa Rica with two wins, the company in charge of competition for the trip asked if the Skyhawks were up for an even bigger challenge to end their trip. Bob Pietrack and the Skyhawks obliged.
Worn down from seven days that included two games, practices and numerous team activities that involved full days of travel and adventure in the heat of Central America, FLC answered the bell Tuesday against Costa Rica’s national team.
After going down 16-10 early, FLC answered quick and claimed a 33-31 halftime lead. The Skyhawks kept up the momentum and built a 57-41 advantage late in the third quarter and then rolled to a 65-54 victory inside BN Arena in the Costa Rican capital city of San José. The game was called off with seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter, as a referee and Costa Rican player got into a scuffle, and the referee walked off the floor after he ejected the player.
Despite the bizarre finish, nothing could steal the thunder from the Skyhawks and their undefeated trip.
“We didn’t play great, but we were really competing,” said FLC head coach Pietrack. “I think they got really frustrated. I think when they see Division II teams, they think they are just going to win the games, and that’s not what happened. Our coaches and players kept their cool the whole game and let them get frustrated. Then their star player erupted. At that point, it was not safe to keep going. They were so mad at the refs, and it got weird.”
The Skyhawks had already beaten the San José All Stars 77-74 last Wednesday. That team featured four Costa Rica national team starters. The next night, FLC knocked off Escazu SJ 98-60 in a dominant performance against a pro team in Costa Rica’s top league that finished second last season. FLC rode the performances of Riley Farris and Danny Garrick in those games.
@akhoops22 getting it done on offense too! 27-23 Skyhawks lead with 5 to go in the 2nd qtr! Make that 29-23 after a tip in from Will Whitman - Skyhawks upping the tempo! #goskyhawks #wingsout #puravida pic.twitter.com/tF6D0u28lm— FLC MEN'S BASKETBALL (@FLCBASKETBALL) August 28, 2019
Tuesday, it was Garrick and Farris once more paired with the sensational play of freshman point guard Akuel Kot. Official stats were not available, but Pietrack said Farris scored more than 20 points and Garrick and Kot were both around 15.
“The game was never in jeopardy the second half,” Pietrack said. “We really love our entire team and the way they all stuck together. It was an epically long trip, and they were so tired, but they gave great effort. We didn’t play beautiful basketball by any means, but we played together with heart.”
With Garrick as the only senior on the Skyhawks roster, this is the youngest FLC team in the last 20 years, Pietrack said. Getting a chance to bond for eight days on the international trip will be key moving forward, as the coaching staff and players have high aspirations building into the next few seasons.
After this trip, the Skyhawks see their potential to once again compete for a Rocky Mountain Athletic Championship as soon as this season.
“This group is full of really good people,” Pietrack said. “I’m really impressed with the guys on the team and how much they meshed. That was the whole goal was bringing a new team, let them be together here, and now when we get back, we have already bonded and are ready to start getting going for the new season to start.
“We need to use the preseason to get in really good shape. We aren’t close to the shape we need to be in yet, but we are light years ahead of most D-II teams at this point.”