The women of Fort Lewis College have proved they can win in a variety of ways during the 2019-20 season.
Saturday night, the Skyhawks saw a 14-point lead turn into a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter. FLC never panicked on its home floor, and late free-throw shooting proved pivotal in a 72-68 win against Colorado Christian inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango.
“It was a little stressful but definitely fun,” said FLC forward Jordan Carter. “It’s what makes basketball so great. They came back in the second half and started knocking down shots left and right. The way we adjusted was good because we pulled it out.”
FLC (13-5, 9-4 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) has played in close games, blown opponents out and proved it can come back from a double-digit deficit in a home win against Metro State. Saturday, FLC showed it won’t hang its head when a game turns against it late. The resiliency of FLC on the second night of back-to-back conference games was on full display.
“Obviously, credit to Colorado Christian,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “They fought extremely hard that second half. They hit some shots when they needed it, but our team was resilient, and the girls had the will to win and sealed the deal. It’s great.”
Sam Nunez, who scored a game-high 14 points, hit a 3-point shot with a bank off the backboard to give the visiting Cougars (6-14, 5-7 RMAC) their first lead of the game at 59-57 with 6 minutes, 15 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. A step-through layup for Brookelyn Hurlbut made it 63-59 Cougars with 3:43 to go. Hurlbut had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
Sydney Candelaria, who scored a team-high 13 points for FLC, answered, as she made a tough layup and drew a foul. She would make the free throw to get the Skyhawks back within 63-62.
“I think it gave us good momentum coming back,” Candelaria said. “I was just trying to play more inside. It was good for us and gave us a lot of momentum.”
The next trip down the floor, FLC freshman forward Jordan Vasquez had the ball in her hands late in the shot clock with two defenders smothering her. Vasquez raised the ball above her head and fed a perfect pass to a cutting Kayla Herrera-Flores, who made the layup to give FLC the lead back at 64-63.
Olivia Christy, who also had 12 points for Colorado Christian, would make a 3 to restore the Cougars’ lead, but Herrera-Flores came right back down the floor and fed a great entry pass from the left wing into Carter for a game-tying layup with under two minutes to play.
“It’s great we’re able to find each other,” Herrera-Flores said. “Perimeter cutting - I’ve found myself being a little stagnant, so I’m trying to move off the ball a bit better. It was great (Vasquez) was able to find me. But I just love picking up my team. ... It feels so good to know I have a team I can count on.”
From there, it was a free-throw game. FLC made 6-of-8 down the stretch with a couple big offensive rebounds from Katrina Chandler and Herrera-Flores helping the cause.
The closing free-throw shooting helped FLC overcome an 11-of-19 performance from the foul line overall. But FLC shot a strong 48.2% from the field and made 7-of-21 from 3-point range.
Chandler finished with 12 points. Carter finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Vasquez added 11 points and six rebounds. Herrera-Flores had a strong game with nine points, eight rebounds and three assists with zero turnovers.
For the second game in a row, FLC had nine players score.
“Moving the ball was our big focus,” Griego said. “The last couple weeks, we really had been stagnant and just wanted to pass it and not move off it. The biggest thing was just moving the ball and finding those good shots.”
The Skyhawks have taken care of the first two games of four in a row at home. Next weekend’s set will be a considerable challenge against Dixie State University (13-6, 8-5 RMAC) and No. 15 Westminster College (16-3, 11-2 RMAC).
Westminster fell Friday to Western Colorado (12-5, 10-3 RMAC), but it bounced back Saturday to hand No. 22 Colorado Mesa (16-3, 12-1 RMAC) its first loss of the conference season. FLC is in the mix with those three teams at the top of the conference standings.
“It’s gonna be two teams that are, obviously, gonna come in playing really well right now,” Griego said. “All of us are sitting in the top tier of the conference. Every game matters. They know that, we know that. I have a lot of faith in our team and the way we work. We’re gonna get to business. These girls are gonna bring it next week.”