The Greyhounds raced out to a 7-0 run in both halves Saturday, as Eastern New Mexico dealt the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team its first loss of the season.
Eastern New Mexico (2-0) out of the Lone Star Conference won both of its games against Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference foes New Mexico Highlands and FLC during the two-day conference challenge event. Saturday, the Greyhounds rode red-hot shooting in the first half to a 69-62 victory against the Skyhawks (1-1).
Eastern shot 50% from the floor in the first half and made 70% (5-of-7) of its 3-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes to build a 43-34 halftime lead. It was the play of FLC’s young forwards Jordan Vasquez, a freshman from Farmington, and Eve Kulovitz, a redshirt freshman from Arizona, who kept the Skyhawks in the game with a combined 16 points and nine rebounds in the opening half.
The fourth quarter would be a different story. FLC roared back from a 55-43 deficit at the end of the third quarter to get as close as 57-55 behind focused defensive play, the 3-point shooting of Chloe Warrington and savvy guard play from Katrina Chandler.
“I saw fight,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “We fought hard. We could have easily given up, but we have great girls who just want to compete. We want to win, and it’s a matter of fighting. I saw that.”
But with star forward Kayla Herrera-Flores, the Skyhawks’ proverbial floor general, out for personal reasons and Jordan Carter still feeling the affects of an illness that kept her out of Friday’s season opener, the Skyhawks were badly shorthanded against a physical Greyhounds team that couldn’t miss early in the game.
“You definitely want experienced players in there who have played college basketball for a long time,” Griego said. “You want those players who grind it out and have game experience and know what it’s like to go down and fight back. It comes with time. This was a good learning experience for all of us.”
Natalie DeLonge, a center, showed off her mid-range shooting and had 10 points in the opening half for Eastern. Then it was Zamorye Cox who got going from long range, as she also scored 10 in the opening half.
Vasquez led FLC in scoring and rebounding with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Alivia Lewis finished with a game-high 20 points and had a double-double with 12 rebounds for the Greyhounds. DeLonge finished with 14 points, and Cox added 12 and five assists.
“Having a player like (Carter) out, someone has to step up and try to fill their position,” Vasquez said. “I was glad I was able to do that. College is very different than high school. I was having to pump fake more and be smarter against their bigger players who were really good.”
Chandler scored 14 for FLC for the second consecutive game. She added four rebounds and three assists. Kulovitz finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
FLC was outrebounded 54-39 and finished shooting just 29%. Though the Greyhounds faded from the field, they still finished 42.1% shooting and made 6-of-12 from 3.
FLC couldn’t make a shot to open the third quarter and was held without a point for the opening 4:55 of clock before Kulovitz made a layup and got to the foul line for a three-point play that cut the Greyhounds lead to 50-37.
FLC wouldn’t go down without a fight in the fourth. Carter hit a hook shot followed by back-to-back Chloe Warrington 3s, and the Skyhawks were within single digits again at 57-51 with 7:20 to play. That drew a timeout from the Greyhounds.
DeLonge lost her poise out of the timeout. She was whistled for an offensive foul and then slammed the ball to draw a technical foul. FLC’s Chandler made a pair of free throws at the line and followed with a floating runner to get the Skyhawks within a basket at 57-55. But the Greyhounds quickly stretched the lead back to 62-55 at the foul line, and FLC couldn’t close the gap once more.
The Skyhawks will host New Mexico Highlands at 5:30 p.m. Friday for an early look at an RMAC opponent in a game that won’t count toward the conference standings. The Skyhawks will look to get its full roster back in advance of meeting the Cowgirls (0-2).
“We haven’t had an actual full game other than an exhibition with everybody here. Once have everyone in, we will do a good job,” Griego said.