On your mark, get set, basketball.
The No. 15 Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team will look to defend its Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout title, and the Skyhawks will begin that defense with a track meet of sorts.
Colorado Christian, seeded seventh, will meet FLC at 6 p.m. today at Whalen Gymnasium, and the Cougars share FLC’s affinity for the world of up-tempo, full-court pressure basketball.
Much of that has to do with playing a style that suits the Colorado Christian star. Sophomore guard Christina Whitelaw does it all for the Cougars, averaging 15 points, 7.9 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 4.4 steals per game, with the steals ranking No. 2 nationally.
Fort Lewis, meanwhile, is fifth in the nation in scoring at 79 points per game and fourth in scoring margin, winning by an average of nearly 20 points.
The Skyhawks flexed their muscle against Colorado Christian in the season’s two previous meetings, winning 74-50 and 79-59.
“She just is more of a run-and-gun-type player,” senior forward Dana Schreibvogel said of Whitelaw. “We know how to slow them down. We can try and ... stay in our press and just wait for them to make the mistakes.”
It was a matchup that almost didn’t happen.
The Fort Lewis women thought they would get the chance to avenge a Feb. 11 loss to UC-Colorado Springs, but a dispute over the language in the tiebreaker scenarios led to UC-Colorado Springs being seeded sixth, with Colorado Christian coming to Durango to meet the No. 2 seed Skyhawks.
The switched forced the Fort Lewis coaching staff to change on the fly, but assistant coach Kristen Mattio chalked up the events of the last two days to the unpredictable nature of postseason basketball.
“I think it’s just the excitement of tournament time in general. It’s the unpredictability, and that just comes with it,” Mattio said.
Should the Skyhawks advance, they potentially could face their ultimate Shootout nemesis in the semifinals on Friday in Pueblo. Before Fort Lewis broke through last year, CSU-Pueblo had eliminated the Skyhawks in five consecutive years. The two didn’t meet in the tournament a season ago.
While Mattio pointed out that even a UC-Colorado Springs win would provide motivation because of the revenge factor, Schreibvogel admitted that getting a chance to knock off the ThunderWolves in Pueblo is something she’d enjoy.
“I think that would be a pretty cool matchup if we got to play against CSU-Pueblo and get to beat them and bury that thing in Pueblo,” said Schreibvogel, last year’s RMAC Shootout MVP.
Fort Lewis also will enter the Shootout with a bit of a chip on its shoulder.
For the second consecutive year, Metro State edged the Skyhawks for the regular-season title, and Schreibvogel said losing out on that hardware makes winning tournament hardware critical.
“I think we do have that feeling that we had last year in a way,” she said.
Given their run to the national title game and RMAC Shootout title in the last two years, it’s safe to say the Skyhawks have the mental part to playing this time of year down pat.
“This part of the season we always say everyone’s record is 0-0,” Mattio said.