The highest of highs, meet the lowest of lows.
From an inspiring victory to a most improbable and inexplicable defeat.
The 17th-ranked Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team hung for a few seconds at the top of the emotional rollercoaster Friday after beating No. 1 Metro State. But the Skyhawks crashed Saturday, as Regis took the air out of Whalen Gymnasium and out of FLC with an 80-77 upset of the Skyhawks.
“It’s the old ‘Wide World of Sports’ (tagline), ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,’” FLC head coach Bob Hofman said. “It definitely stings, but you have to move on and learn from it.”
Down the stretch, the Rangers (8-15, 7-13 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) seemed to have an answer for every FLC rally attempt, holding the Skyhawks at arms length until Fort Lewis finally broke through, using a 7-0 run to tie the score at 74 with 1 minute, 30 seconds to play in regulation.
But Dylan King, who scored 20 points, connected on a four-point play with 56 seconds to go, draining a 3-pointer as he was fouled by FLC’s Jared Smith, and he buried the free throw to put Regis up 78-74.
Alex Herrera, who led all scorers by using a noticeable size advantage to score a career-high 26 points, had a dunk to cut the lead to 78-76, then had a rare steal near midcourt and was fouled from behind on the fast break with 9.2 seconds remaining, one the FLC bench thought should’ve been called an intentional foul but wasn’t. He made just one of two free throw attempts.
“Yes, I did (think it was intentional) because he played it from behind, and I thought that’s a pretty automatic call,” Hofman said. “But that’s the judgment, and you have to live with it.”
Kevin Marshall capped his 20-point effort with two free throws with 7.7 seconds to go, and FLC’s Marcus Ayala missed a potential game-tying 3 in the waning seconds as the Rangers sealed an unlikely road upset.
Regis did what Metro State couldn’t by repeatedly getting into the paint. As a result, they hit 24 of 30 free throw attempts to just 8 of 12 for FLC (18-5, 15-5 RMAC). The penetration drew Herrera, a shot blocker, away from the rim, allowing them offensive rebound opportunities.
“I thought mainly it was Alex would come over to help because they were able to penetrate, and when Alex came over to help, it opened up a hole on the weak side, and we didn’t cover down as well as we need to,” Hofman said.
FLC played without Nick Tomsick, who battled a flu bug earlier in the week.
Regis, which Hofman said was stuck on Wolf Creek Pass and didn’t get in until 7 a.m. Saturday, shot 48 percent from the field and hit 8 of 15 3s.
“Give them credit. They made huge shots after running the shot clock down under 10,” Hofman said.
“We didn’t shoot a lot of free throws, but that’s part of the game.”