A tough conference season for the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team didn’t relent on senior night Saturday.
Strong 3-point shooting and the play of James and Will Willis down the stretch help send the Western Colorado University Mountaineers to a 87-83 win at Whalen Gymnasium on the FLC campus in Durango on Saturday night in the home finale for the Skyhawks.
The game was tied multiple times late, and there were 10 lead changes on a night in which FLC held the lead for only 6 minutes, 29 seconds.
The Skyhawks charged back from an 81-75 deficit to get within 83-81 thanks to the interior play of Brenden Boatwright, who had a team-high 18 points for FLC off the bench. The teams would exchange free throws to make it 85-83 with 50.8 seconds to go. FLC had a chance to tie the game with 16.6 seconds to go with Logan Hokanson at the line shooting free throws. But he would miss the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Still, FLC got the rebound and got the ball to leading scorer Riley Farris at the top of the 3-point arc, but his shot was short. Western Colorado got the rebound and finished the game off with two free throws from Monroe Porter with three seconds to play to secure the win.
Western Colorado (12-14, 9-11 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) won for the sixth time in its last seven games, while FLC (13-14, 7-14 RMAC) dropped its eighth in a row.
“I credit Western, they made the shots down the stretch to win the game,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “Some really tough 3s they stuck. We’re just a little snakebit by the 3, and it showed up again tonight.
“We had a couple free throws at the end we could’ve made it. We trust Logan, he just didn’t make it. Then we get a wide-open 3 with Farris, it just didn’t go in. It’s not our night, hasn’t been our year.”
Will Willis made 9-of-15 shots and 5-of-7 from 3 to finish with a game-high 24 points off the bench for the Mountaineers. James Willis added 10 points and four assists. Matthew Ragsdale scored 17 points, and Cole Sienknecht had a huge first half and finished with 15 points,
Farris finished with 16 points for FLC on 7-of-13 shooting. Will Wittman added 12 points and eight rebounds, while Hokanson and Akuel Kot each had 10 points. Hokanson added seven assists. Kot was perfect from the field at 3-of-3 shooting, and he was 4-of-4 at the foul line.
It was the play of Boatwright, who had the 18 points and seven rebounds with three assists in 21 minutes, that Pietrack could be pleased with after the game.
“Boat was really strong tonight, very good rebounder, made his free throws,” Pietrack said. “Hokanson found him on a bunch of nice plays. Good game for Boatwright. He’s just a young buck still and he’s going to keep growing. Good for him. I think Akuel had a good game, and I really think all the young guys are coming along.”
FLC had a strong rebounding performance with a 33-26 edge and shot free throws well at 18-of-21. It still wasn’t enough to snap the losing streak as Western Colorado
“We knew we had to keep them under 10 3s. If you do, you win the game. If you don’t, you lose. That’s where we’re at,” Pietrack said.
The Skyhawks will finish the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Adams State University.
“I expect our program to come to work Monday and work hard all week. I expect us to play well next Friday,” Pietrack said. “We’re just going to keep going. It is what it is at this point. I think in all eight of these games we’ve been right there and it could have gone our way, we just haven’t had it. I wish I knew the reason for it or why it was happening. I will say this: there’s a line in coaching that says losing is defeating, and although we’ve lost some games now, I definitely don’t think our spirit as a team is broken. I think our guys are fighting very hard, so let’s try to see if we can’t get a taste of victory one last time before the year is over and get back to even for the season.”