A pesky Colorado Christian University men’s basketball team stuck with Fort Lewis College on Saturday night in Durango. Elite scoring from Riley Farris and the closing ability of Logan Hokanson proved too much for the visiting Cougars to handle.
Farris scored a game-high 26 points for the Skyhawks on Saturday. That paired with strong free-throw shooting and a resurgent effort from Danny Garrick helped FLC (13-6, 7-6 RMAC) overcome tired legs and earn its first two-game weekend sweep of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference schedule.
“It didn’t look that pretty, the win, but it’s like baseball – if it bloops in it’s still a hit,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “We will be very thankful. It’s a line drive in the scorebook, and we’re gonna take it.”
While Farris scored in bunches and Garrick had a big first half with 10 of his 15 points, it was the closing touch of Hokanson, the junior point guard, that helped FLC close the game. He went on his own 10-0 run to make a 74-69 lead an 84-69 advantage. It all came while Farris was on the bench to get a breather with under five minutes to play. Hokanson finished with his new FLC career-high 20 points.
During his 10-0 run, he made a 3 with the shot clock winding down, blew past a defender for a layup and made five free throws.
“Just being more aggressive and trying to score,” Hokanson said. “They were going under on my ball screens and basically daring me to shoot, so I just took advantage of that.”
Hokanson, who has been on the mend from a wrist injury sustained early in the season, emerged as a scoring threat for FLC in recent weeks, giving the Skyhawks a big boost and another closer.
“As our team is starting to get better, we said last week that we were improving. We’ve won three out of four, a lot of it has to do with Hokanson’s improvement,” Pietrack said. “We played the whole almost first semester without our starting point guard, and people forget that. As he continues to improve, our team is going to improve.”
FLC was burned in the first half by hot Colorado Christian shooting. The Cougars (1-17, 1-11 RMAC) made 7-of-16 from 3-point range and shot 48.6% from the field overall. But FLC was much better defensively in the second half. Justin Engesser, who had 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting and 4-of-5 from 3 in the first half, was held to five points in the second half on 2-of-5 shooting, and he made just one 3. He finished as the Cougars’ leading scorer with 19.
The Cougars shot 39.5% in the second half and went 6-of-21 from 3. Still, the 13 makes from 3 were too many for FLC to give up and kept the Cougars in the game.
“It’s almost become normal for us. It’s didn’t even feel like they were making that many. We just give up too many 3s in general,” Pietrack said. “The problem was they had some guys that don’t normally make them make them.”
After Hokanson’s run, the game was over, but the final minutes drug on forever as Colorado Christian continued to foul. The Cougars also got hot late and had some good fortune and would benefit from a few calls to make the final score close.
The fouls allowed FLC freshman forward Akuel Kot to score in double digits thanks to 10-of-10 free-throw shooting. He finished with 14 points. Will Wittman added eight points and a team-high eight rebounds.
Elijah Oliver had 15 points for Colorado Christian on 6-of-19 shooting. Jadyn Micahel added 13 points, Collin Huun had 12 and Aidan Cantwell scored 10.
Farris’ 26 points came on only 6-of-9 shooting. He was 14-of-14 at the foul line, and FLC went 36-of-43 at the foul line in the game.
“Point of it was to go at their bigs because they’re so good and talented, and I think we executed that tonight,” Farris said. “It’s a big boost for everyone to knock down free throws on a key point on Saturdays. I helped out any way I could. It can be frustrating. They took away a lot tonight, but I’m glad they called fouls tonight.”
Garrick, who had struggled with his shot since before the holiday break, made a few shots early and finished 5-of-9 overall and 3-of-6 from 3.
“I’ve been struggling a bit these past couple games, so it felt good to get my shot back,” Garrick said. “I kind of tried to do everything I’ve been doing before the game, I did the complete opposite. I had to. I just tried to do something. That first off-the-dribble shot felt good. My first 3 hit, and I felt like I got my swagger back with it. It felt good.”
FLC will welcome a mighty test this weekend against No. 19 Dixie State University (16-3, 11-2 RMAC) at 7:30 p.m. Friday before Westminster College (12-7, 7-6 RMAC) will visit at the same time Saturday.
“You don’t get a nationally-ranked team to come to your building very often,” Pietrack said. “It will be a great challenge but a challenge that our team will be ready for.
“I hope our crowd will be ready for it a little bit more. This team is working really hard. We’ve won three out of four. This is the stretch run, and we need some energy from the crowd. It’s just how college basketball works. We didn’t get much tonight. I really challenge, and I haven’t done this before, but I really challenge our crowd to be better next Friday.”