It took some working out, and the transformation isn’t complete, but the Skyhawks appear to be hitting their stride.
And, given this weekend’s opponents, it’s a good time to be streaking.
The Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team will enter this weekend a winner of five consecutive games and six of its last seven to move into third place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, just two games behind league-leading Metro State, who will visit Whalen Gymnasium on Saturday.
The Skyhawks (10-3, 7-2 RMAC) have used a lineup shuffle here, a dash of defensive improvements there and improved output from a varied cast of characters as they round into shape. The uptick in defense may be the biggest culprit to date.
“That’ll come with practices over the year. Coach (Bob) Hofman has done a good job with helping us. We’ve been stressing it in practice a lot,” FLC point guard Will Morse said.
Alex Herrera and Nick Tomsick have been the offensive pillars for the Skyhawks all season long, with Tomsick leading the league with 21.9 points per game, 41 3-point field goals made, 3.15 3s per game, total field goals (54) and total points (285). Herrera is second in the RMAC in field-goal percentage (59.7).
Quality contributions around that duo have been strong of late, and it seems to be someone different every night. Kody Salcido had 13 points and eight rebounds in a recent win over Chadron State, Wes McKenzie scored a combined 32 points in a weekend sweep of New Mexico Highlands and Western New Mexico last weekend, and Morse has 16 assists against just five turnovers since moving into the starting lineup at point guard for JoeBell Austin, who was suspended for violating team rules and appears unlikely to return this season.
“The most important thing a coach can do is get players to realize their roles, accept their roles, embrace their roles and know there’s no role more important than anybody else’s, whether it’s the 13th man or the first man,” Hofman said.
For Morse, it was a bit of a trial-by-fire. The freshman played off the bench earlier in the season but suddenly was thrust into the starting lineup against Western State, the game that started this recent run, and he’s adapted quickly to the new role.
“It’s nice playing with guys like Nick and Chief (Herrera) that make it easy to play with right off the bat,” Morse said.
They’ll need similar contributions across the board to keep the run going this weekend. Despite being just 4-10, Regis is a threat if for no other reason than beating FLC at Whalen Gym a year ago. Overlooking the Rangers in advance of the marquee matchup Saturday against No. 5 Metro State would open the door for a similar stunner to last year, when FLC fell a night after ending the undefeated streak of the then-No. 1 Roadrunners.
“This time of the year is when certain teams start going north and other teams start going south, and hopefully we continue getting better, because it’s still a long season,” Hofman said.