Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
There’s nothing like peaking at the right time.
And the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team has to be feeling pretty good about itself.
A superb defensive effort and an improved offensive burst after halftime boosted the Skyhawks to a key 64-48 win over Metro State on Friday at Whalen Gymnasium.
That’s three home wins in a row over teams ahead of them in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference after last weekend’s wins over CSU-Pueblo and UC-Colorado Springs. With the win Friday, FLC leapfrogged CSU-Pueblo into fourth place in the conference, one game behind Metro State and UCCS. If they can hold it, the Skyhawks would open the RMAC Shootout at home.
Defensively on Friday, the Skyhawks (15-8, 14-5 RMAC) were as strong as they’ve been all season, holding the Roadrunners to jumper after jumper.
As a result, Metro State (17-7, 15-4 RMAC) hit just 15.6 percent from the field after intermission as the Skyhawks shot 40 percent and hit 85 percent from the free throw line to turn a 28-24 halftime lead into a runaway late.
“I thought that we could match up with them and do some things defensively. I was confident that we’d be able to defend them,” Flores said.
Key to the process was an 11-2 run midway through the second half that saw FLC turn a 35-33 advantage into a 46-35 lead, and the Roadrunners would get no closer than seven the rest of the way, that coming when they trimmed the lead to 52-45 with 3 minutes, 31 seconds to play.
The offensive output for FLC was 10 more points than the typically stingy Roadrunners allow on average, while FLC held them to 15 fewer points than in the teams’ last matchup, a 63-60 victory for Metro State in Denver.
FLC had five players in double figures, led by Katerina Garcia’s 15. Garcia left the game with what Flores termed a bad cramp in her leg in the final seconds.
Ashley Kuchar, who struggled a bit shooting the ball in a 2-for-9 performance, nevertheless scored 12 points; she was a perfect 8 of 8 from the free throw line thanks to a more determined effort to get to the basket.
“It was more of a ‘shooting doesn’t seem to be working for me, so maybe I should try something else (thing),’” Kuchar said. “Free throws, I have a pretty good percentage at free throws, so I figured I should probably start getting to the free throw line.”
Christie Groh also benefitted from the foul line; she worked well inside to score 12 points, six on free throws. And she played solid post defense, holding Amy Nelson to two second-half points.
“I was trying to be aggressive inside and take it to the hole,” Groh said. “Fortunately I was on on my free throws (Friday), so that was helpful.”
Alex Easterbrook scored 12 points and had eight rebounds, while Erika Richards scored eight and pulled in 11 boards to lead FLC.
The Skyhawks also outrebounded Metro State 48-44.
Metro State, which shot 31 percent in the first half and 23 percent overall, was led by 11 points from Emily Wood, and Kristin Valencia had a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Neither team turned the ball over much, with FLC committing eight miscues to nine for Metro State. Neither team shot it well before halftime, either, with FLC at a 30-percent clip.
“We’ve just got to keep defending, rebounding, and if we start hitting shots, then it’s just one of those games where we were going to be able to break it open,” Flores said.
The Skyhawks will celebrate Senior Night for Easterbrook and Garcia – the Durango High School alumna – when they take on Regis (10-13, 9-10 RMAC) at 5:30 p.m. today at Whalen Gymnasium.