Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Not much beats hot shooting.
The ThunderWolves learned that lesson the hard way Tuesday.
The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team used a 14-0 run early in the second half to jump out to a big lead, eventually leading by as many as 21 points before holding off CSU-Pueblo’s rally attempt to win 78-67 on Tuesday in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout quarterfinals at Whalen Gymnasium.
The first half was a back-and-forth effort, with FLC taking a 29-27 lead into the locker room.
The first 14 minutes of the second half were anything but. The Skyhawks hit six of their first seven 3-point attempts out of the locker room after going just 1 of 11 in the first half, and their up-tempo attack overwhelmed the ThunderWolves (18-9).
“That’s exactly what we talked about at halftime was we wanted to push tempo,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “We wanted to get out and run, and we started to do that, and we got easy looks that got us into a good rhythm.”
CSU-Pueblo battled back from there, using an 11-0 run to make things interesting, eventually cutting the lead down to 72-65 on a Jenay Locke bucket with 2 minutes to go.
“We took some shots that we probably shouldn’t have taken. ... Just part of the game. It was a little run that they made, and we had to counteract that,” Flores said.
But a Christie Groh bucket and four Ashley Kuchar free throws sealed the deal from there, keeping FLC alive in its quest for a third consecutive Shootout title.
In her final college game in her hometown, FLC point guard Katerina Garcia was fantastic, nearly contributing a triple-double with 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Her ability to get out and run the transition offense provided FLC with easy buckets in the second half, and it opened up a drive-and-kick attack that helped FLC shoot 8 of 14 from 3 after halftime.
“It was great. It was fun to play (Tuesday), and, you know, I’ll remember this for the rest of my life,” a misty-eyed Garcia said of her final home game.
And the Skyhawks followed their point guard’s lead, assisting on 24 of 28 made field goals.
“When you drive, they tend to collapse, and when they collapse, that gives you four open other players, and everybody was hitting (Tuesday),” Garcia said.
FLC matched Laurel Kearsley’s output in the post. Kearsley scored 20 points despite constant hedging on the part of FLC’s guards, but Katie Nehf was bothered by foul trouble and scored just four.
Meanwhile, Groh scored 18 points and pulled in five rebounds, while Mary Brinton came off the bench to add 12 points and eight rebounds.
“All the guards were penetrating and kicking, and we were getting some easy layups just because of the guard’s drives,” Groh said.
Erika Richards chipped in 15 points, while Kuchar scored 13 for the Skyhawks, who won the rebounding battle 37-36 and forced 15 turnovers.
Erica Hicks and Alex Evans had 12 apiece for CSU-Pueblo.
FLC, the No. 4 seed in the RMAC Shootout, now has won 17 of its last 20 games, and the Skyhawks (18-9, 16-6 RMAC) will get a shot at revenge against fourth-ranked and No. 1 seed Colorado Mesa (26-1, 21-1 RMAC) at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Mavericks stopped FLC’s nine-game winning streak in a tense 76-68 battle Saturday in Grand Junction.
Colorado Mesa defeated 8-seed Regis 74-50 in its quarterfinal Tuesday night in Grand Junction.
And when asked if the Skyhawks were looking forward to another shot at the Mavericks, Garcia put forth an emphatic yes before Flores took the reins.
“We had a really good streak going that got snapped there. We did what we needed to do (Tuesday), and we’re going to go back there, and it’s going to be another great atmosphere,” Flores said.