Fort Lewis College played pretty good basketball for a long time Friday night. But a tough stretch saw Westminster College go on a 25-6 run, and the Skyhawks couldn’t recover down the stretch.
It was a three-point game when Westminster College went on its run to go up 59-41 with 7 minutes, 25 seconds to play. FLC responded with its own 13-3 run behind the hustle plays of Akuel Kot and Corey Seng, but big play in the closing minutes from Westminster’s Jai Jai Ely and a 3-pointer from Brandon Warr kept the Skyhawks out of reach in a 75-62 win for the Griffins on Friday night in Salt Lake City.
“We did a really nice job defensively for about 25 minutes,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “Then we had a spell where they kept getting to the basket, and we didn’t really have an answer. Normally, we can keep up scoring-wise. But we didn’t shoot the ball well tonight and didn’t rebound out of it.”
Ely finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Westminster (15-9, 10-8 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference). That added to a big night from Joonas Tahvanainen, who scored a game-high 23 points on 11-of-16 shooting. Warr added 10 points and made 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Westminster was 3-of-8 from 3-point range, while FLC was 5-of-23.
FLC (13-11, 7-11 RMAC) was led once again by junior forward Riley Farris, who had 20 points and six rebounds. All of his rebounds came in the first half when FLC played the Griffins to a 28-28 tie.
Kot, Seng and Will Wittman each had 12 points for FLC, which shot only 37.9% from the field compared with 57.4% for Westminster. FLC also was outrebounded 39-26.
FLC’s starting five went 3-of-20 from 3-point range, uncharacteristic of a good shooting group.
“The guys are playing hard, trying their very best,” Pietrack said. “Not a lot is going our way right now. I’m proud of the guys. They’ve kept fighting. We didn’t make any shots, and that makes it hard to get stops in the second half. We had a lot of really good 3s but didn’t make any.”
It was an improved defensive effort from FLC, which had allowed 90 or more points in four previous games, but the rare poor offensive night led to a fifth consecutive loss for the Skyhawks.
Saturday won’t get any easier for FLC, as it will travel to face No. 15 Dixie State (20-4, 15-3 RMAC) at 7:30 p.m. in St. George, Utah. The Trailblazers are 10-1 at home in their final year in Division II before a move to D-I in the Western Athletic Conference next season.
“We are going to focus on trying to play our best,” Pietrack said. “That’s all we can do right now. We’re in a rut. I’ve asked the guys, and they’re gonna play hard, no question of that. It seems we can’t click on all cylinders or execute the whole time. It is what it is right now. We will keep marching on.”