A bit banged up and in need of a momentum-reclaiming win, the Skyhawks dug deep and did something they hadn’t done in six years:
Win at Colorado Mesa.
The No. 17 Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team used improved defense and a timely scoring outburst by Marcus Ayala to drop the Mavericks 69-59 on Saturday in Grand Junction.
After losses to Regis and Western State, FLC (19-6, 16-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) needed a victory to nip the losing streak.
And the Skyhawks got one on a campus they hadn’t won on since Jan. 16, 2007.
“We’re beat up. ... that’s why I’m especially proud of them (Saturday),” FLC head coach Bob Hofman said. “They’ve really overcome quite a bit of adversity.”
With the outcome still in doubt, Ayala scored eight consecutive points for the Skyhawks as they built a 57-53 lead into a 65-56 edge with 57 seconds to play in regulation.
Ayala finished with a game-high 22 points.
“He made some super-tough drives with good defense and somehow got the ball up and in two or three different times with the shot clock running down,” Hofman said.
Alex Herrera had a strong game Saturday, as well, scoring 16 points and holding Colton Burgon to just eight points before he fouled out.
The FLC defense was better as a whole Saturday after Friday’s loss. The Skyhawks allowed Colorado Mesa to shoot just 39 percent and won the rebounding battle 36-26.
“We played much better defensively (Saturday),” Hofman said.
Mike Melillo led Colorado Mesa (17-9, 14-8 RMAC) with 15 points.
FLC finished as the 3-seed and will open the RMAC Shootout at home Tuesday against Colorado Mines, which FLC beat earlier this season on a dunk at the buzzer by Herrera.
“We’ll try and get healthy over the next couple of days and get ready for Mines,” Hofman said.