Skyhawks need to defend the ‘Don’

After a difficult loss at home, FLC gets two games to get it right

Mike Matthews and Fort Lewis College will have to put a disappointing late-game rally by Justin Kauffman and Adams State in the past quickly with Colorado Mesa and Western State coming to town for a rare Sunday and Monday Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference doubleheader. “If you dwell on what happened previous, you’re doomed to repeat it,” head coach Bob Hofman said. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Mike Matthews and Fort Lewis College will have to put a disappointing late-game rally by Justin Kauffman and Adams State in the past quickly with Colorado Mesa and Western State coming to town for a rare Sunday and Monday Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference doubleheader. “If you dwell on what happened previous, you’re doomed to repeat it,” head coach Bob Hofman said.

Calm. Peaceful. Quiet. Serene.

All perfect adjectives for a snowy and mostly empty Fort Lewis College campus Saturday night.

Come Sunday night, at least one building on campus will be anything but.

Such is the usual state of affairs when Colorado Mesa comes to town for a row in men’s basketball. The Mavericks hold a 6-5 edge in the last 11 meetings between the teams, such physical, tense affairs are the norm when they lock horns with the Skyhawks.

And vocal crowd or no crowd – expect closer to the latter student-wise with finals now over – FLC’s Matthias Weissl doesn’t expect the Skyhawks to have any trouble getting up for Sunday night’s rivalry game.

“The thing with Mesa is we could play Mesa anywhere, and it’s going to be a good game,” the senior guard said. “We could play in front of nobody, and it’s going to be a good game, I think. Sure, we’d love to have a great crowd (Sunday), but it’s Christmas break, so what can you do?”

Head coach Bob Hofman speaks of a healthy respect for Jim Heaps’ program from Grand Junction, and he’s gotten a look at Mesa from the scope of two different rivalries – both with FLC and during his five-year stint at the helm of Western State. So if anybody outside of Grand Junction has a feel for the Mavericks, chances are it’s Hofman.

“The word between the two programs over 20 years has been respect, you know, great respect,” Hofman said. “(Associate head coach) Bobby (Pietrack) coined a term I like – frenemies. They’re bitter enemies and great friends, which is an oxymoron at its best, but that’s how we feel about Mesa.”

FLC will head into the final weekend before the holiday break coming off its first loss of the year. FLC was held without a field goal for 10 minutes, 26 seconds in the second half as Adams State stormed back to claim victory last Saturday at Whalen Gymnasium.

This weekend provides little in the way of a let-up, with the Mavericks at 7-1 overall and unbeaten in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, riding a six game winning streak. Monday’s opponent, Western State, also is 4-0 in the RMAC.

FLC’s last three home losses have come by a combined eight points, and the Skyhawks would rather not start 0-3 at home in league, even though they’ll have 17 RMAC games left after the break to right that mark.

“Coach is talking about territorial imperative, basically defending the Don Whalen (Gym),” Weissl said. “And that hurt enough to lose last time, so we’re not trying to lose at home, obviously. It would be even harder to lose right before Christmas break.”

Protecting home court is critical, but given how much time is left in the season, Hofman said he’s more concerned at the present with simply getting better on the basketball court than results.

Hofman never has been shy in voicing his opposition to the 22-game RMAC schedule, either, as he’d prefer more time for teams to fuse before jumping into conference play. But after a somewhat limited practice week during finals, he hopes his team has put a disappointing loss to Adams State behind it and will be ready to challenge two of the league’s best to this point.

“I think our practices have been good, considering the circumstances. ... If you dwell on what happened previous, you’re doomed to repeat it,” Hofman said.

rowens@durangoherald.com