The last four games for the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team have been decided by one possession. The Skyhawks are 1-3 in those games.
The last win came Feb. 1 at home against previously 24th-ranked Westminster College with a 74-72 overtime win in which FLC erased an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit.
The Westminster Griffins (18-6, 13-5 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) would get revenge for that loss Friday night in their home gymnasium in Salt Lake City in a 63-61 win against the Skyhawks.
FLC (15-8, 11-7 RMAC) once again erased a large deficit, as the Skyhawks trailed by as much as 15 and 10 early in the fourth quarter before FLC raced back to tie it at 55-55 with 3 minutes, 52 seconds to play. But a few missed chances at the free-throw line and a questionable five-second inbound violation for FLC paired against the veteran play of the Griffins led to the Skyhawks coming up short of a season sweep of the Griffins.
“It’s tough. We’re on the road competing with teams that are really good,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “When it comes down to one possession, it’s about the little things. We can all look back individually as players and a coaching staff and look at what we messed up here or there. We have to clean those things up being on the road.”
Hunter Krebs and Kaitlin Toluono gave the Skyhawks fits Friday night. Krebs scored 18 of her game-high 24 points in the first half. She was 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 4-of-6 from 3-point range with all four 3s in the first half. Toluono was huge in the second half, as she finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three steals. She had five offensive rebounds to help Westminster outrebound FLC 46-36. Toluono did it all with a mask on to protect a nose that is broken in two places.
“It was hard to stop Hunter tonight,” Westminster head coach Shelley Jarrard said in a post-game interview. “When she has her nice soft touch around the rim and her 3 is falling, she’s dangerous. (Toluono) is an X--factor kid who does all the dirty work for us. She’s undersized, always mismatched and always getting it done. She’s gritty and tough and always in the mix.”
Jordan Vasquez finished with 13 points for FLC. She was 4-of-11 shooting and 5-of-8 at the foul line. She also had seven rebounds. Jordan Carter and Aubre Fortner each had nine points, and Katrina Chandler added eight points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals. Sydney Candelaria had seven points and four steals.
FLC picked up its defensive focus in the second half but struggled offensively. Carter had only two points in the second half, and Chandler had only one.
“Credit to some teams playing them really tough, but we gotta do a better job scoring and being more efficient when we get those shots up,” Griego said.
Westminster started the game 5-of-8 from 3-point range but finished only 8-of-25. FLC was 5-of-21 from 3.
‘They do a real good job of being able to jump on teams and get a good lead,” Griego said. “Their bench is not too deep. When they did sub players in, we capitalized on that and chipped away at the lead.”
FLC was able to fight back to tie the game by holding Westminster without a basket from the 8:39 mark of the fourth quarter until Sarah McGinley hit a big 3 with 2:51 to play that gave Westminster a 58-55 lead.
A Vasquez basket had FLC within 59-57 with 1:37 to play. FLC’s Chloe Warrington would try a long 3 that was long, as she finished 0-of-8 shooting and 0-of-5 from 3, but the referees made a tough call on McGinley going for a rebound against Vasquez that would send Vasquez to the foul line. Vasquez made both after she went 1-of-3 in her previous two trips to the line to tie it at 59-59.
Krebs would get a big layup with 43 seconds to go to give the Griffins the lead back. Griego called a timeout with 33 seconds to play. FLC never got the inbound pass in, as a quick whistle for a five-second violation turned it back over to the Griffins. Beautiful passing from the Griffins led to a Toluono layup assisted by McGinley with 12 seconds to play to put a knife in FLC.
“I thought it was really quick,” Griego said of the five-second violation. “Our play developed perfect. We had our entry, and I just thought it was a really quick whistle.. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t have come down to that, but gosh, we were so close and that was a big moment.”
Vasquez would make a tough shot in the final seconds, but a Westminster inbound would see the clock expire.
The Skyhawks will now travel to St. George, Utah, to play Dixie State at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. FLC is only 2-7 on the road this season and hasn’t won on the road since Jan. 11 at Colorado School of Mines.
With only four games left in the regular season, FLC is hungry to get back to its winning ways to secure a strong seed for the conference tournament.
“We are still competing to get a spot into the RMAC tournament. At the same time, we’re still just trying to win games,” Griego said. “We are all fighting and pushing, and we’re doing our best. It’s a big game tomorrow.”