Fort Lewis College once again showed fight. The young Skyhawks couldn’t finish it.
The fourth-place Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team kept pace with the top of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference on Friday night with an 89-82 win at Whalen Gymnasium on the FLC campus in Durango.
“I was proud of our guys. I do think we’re playing hard. We didn’t quit by any means,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said after his team’s seventh consecutive loss. “We will do everything we can to continue to just fight. We lose the last three games against three regional-caliber teams, and we’ve been right there with them. We’re just a little young and a little short right now.
“We’ve lost seven in a row, and that really hurts. It hurts everybody; it hurts the coaches, it hurts the players, and I’m sure it hurts the people in town, too.”
The host Skyhawks (13-13, 7-13 RMAC) fought back from a 10-point deficit multiple times and took a 58-56 lead on a soaring putback dunk by Will Wittman.
But Georgie Dancer would make two free throws for Colorado Mesa (17-9, 13-7 RMAC) to tie the game. After a missed 3 by FLC point guard Logan Hokanson, Colorado Mesa’s Jared Small made a 3-pointer through a foul and converted at the free-throw line for a four-point play that made it 62-58. The Mavericks would never trail again.
“That sequence was enormous,” Pietrack said.
Small finished 10-of-10 shooting from 3-point range against FLC this season.
Ethan Richardson scored 25 points and had six rebounds for the Mavericks from the center position. Michael Skinner was big from the free-throw line down the stretch to finish with 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Skyhawks would get within 78-76 with three minutes to play behind a big 8-0 run with 3-pointers from Corey Seng and Riley Farris around a spinning layup from Levy Miguel.
After Logan Hokanson missed a tough floater, Richardson would post up against Farris and finish with his left hand to make it 82-77 with 1:12 to play.
Seng would draw contact while shooting a layup for FLC the next time down the floor, but the referees refused to blow the whistle in a game that went against FLC the entire night.
Colorado Mesa would ice the game at the foul line.
Farris overcame a 1-of-9 shooting start for four points in the first half to finish with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting and 3-of-7 from 3 for FLC. He also added nine rebounds. Farris came off the bench to start the game, a move Pietrack attributed to effort in practice.
Wittman had a big night with 12 points and seven rebounds with four offensive rebounds.
“He’s had a nice junior season. Collectively, he’s really grown,” Pietrack said. “He shows a lot of heart when he plays. Every coach would like to have a guy like him. Thankful to have him and think he’ll really continue to blossom going into next year.”
Hokanson finished with 16 points on 5-of-14 shooting to go with seven assists.
Corey Seng had another big game for FLC to continue a strong month of play. He had nine points and six rebounds. Miguel finished with seven points.
For Pietrack, FLC simply couldn’t overcome an 8-of-35 shooting performance in the first half in which it also was 4-of-17 from 3 and 6-of-11 at the foul line. The Skyhawks would finish 39.7% shooting and made 11-of-34 from 3 and 17-of-25 at the foul line.
“The slow start in the first half was probably the difference in the game,” Pietrack said. “It’s a fine line between winning and losing. High-percentage shooting, low-percentage shooting usually does it.”
Last time the teams met, the Mavericks blew past FLC behind 18-of-23 shooting from 3-point range. This time, the Mavericks were 5-of-9 from long range, but they shot 56.1% from the field overall and made 20-of-28 at the foul line.
FLC will close out its home schedule at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Western Colorado University that has won five of six games, including a blowout Friday night of Adams State.
“We’re trying really hard. I still feel like our team has a lot of promise moving forward,” Pietrack said. “Some of these teams are good, and we’re about four or five possessions throughout the game where we’re a little short. How do you find a way to get over the hump against really good teams? It probably will come with a good summer of work and another preseason and another year of being older and stronger. I do believe we can get there.”