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Colorado Mesa women’s basketball smothers Skyhawks in Durango

Rigsby explodes offensively, as FLC goes cold on its end

Kylyn Rigsby couldn’t be contained in the first half. She didn’t get much colder in the second, either.

The senior guard from DeBeque continued her streak of sensational play Friday night, as she led the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team into Durango to face Fort Lewis College inside Whalen Gymnasium.

Rigsby and the Mavericks made plenty of their own energy in an empty arena void of fans because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rigsby went 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter alone and had 17 first-half points to keep Colorado Mesa in a comfortable double-digit lead. The Mavericks (10-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) played stout defense and used that aggressiveness to grab 14 offensive rebounds turned into 18 second-chance points en route to a 71-49 victory.

The Mavericks remain unbeaten against FLC since 2017, and it snapped the Skyhawks’ three-game winning streak.

“They did a good job rebounding the ball, or we scored and they did a great job coming back down. Girls were getting lost in defensive transition and they were able to get those easy baskets,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “It’s hard. When you’re down, you need to get those possessions, defensive stops and be able to score the ball. It was hard for us to do that.”

Kylyn Rigsby of Colorado Mesa University was the leading scorer against Fort Lewis College on Friday night at FLC.

Fort Lewis College (4-5 RMAC), which had won three games in a row entering Friday’s contest, was without the services of senior guard Sydney Candelaria, who has dealt with an injury all season that has required pain management. Missing her defensive prowess against a player like Rigsby, FLC was beat badly on screens by the Mavericks half-court offense all night. Rigsby finished with 26 points on 11-of-20 shooting, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

“It was tough. We knew that was the defensive assignment leading up to the game,” Griego said. “We knew Sydney was going to step up to that challenge and really compete with her. She’s done a great job before against her and other elite players. It was hard for us, that adjustment prior to the game of who we could put on her to put us in best situation to win the game.”

Katrina Chandler of Fort Lewis College puts up a shot while playing Colorado Mesa University on Friday night at FLC.

Natalie Bartle added 17 points for the Mavericks. Kelsey Siemons scored another 12 on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. Sophie Anderson had a game-high 11 rebounds.

Shorthanded and overmatched by one of the conference’s perennially elite teams, the Skyhawks simply couldn’t keep up. Mesa outscored FLC 25-13 in the third quarter, as FLC went only 4-of-16 shooting in the frame after a 3-of-13 shooting performance in the first quarter.

“Between three of their players, they had 50 shots,” Griego said. “It’s pretty tough as a defense trying to defend that, and we didn’t have that great defender out there to buckle down. They are well-coached and they move very well. It was hard. Our heads weren’t on swivels, and we were getting hit by screens and just not playing defense like we did the past few games. We took a couple steps back.”

Jordan Vasquez of Fort Lewis College puts up a shot while playing Colorado Mesa University on Friday night at FLC.

Jordan Vasquez, FLC’s star sophomore forward, had 14 points and seven rebounds to lead the Skyhawks. She did most of her damage at the foul line in an 8-for-13 showing, while she went 3-for-9 from the field and had to fight through double teams all game.

Chloe Warrington added 11 points for FLC off the bench. She went 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

“It started in practice this week. She got in the gym and really wanted to look at film,” Griego said of Warrington. “She had a good confidence about her this week. I told her before the game I was going to lean on her and she would get more minutes than she normally has, and she did a great job tonight.”

The Skyhawks will play the Mavericks again the final game of the regular season in Grand Junction.

FLC won’t have much time to dwell, as Westminster College (5-2 RMAC) will visit at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Griffins did not play at Western Colorado on Friday night as scheduled, as the first-place Mountaineers postponed because of COVID-19 issues. So, Westminster College will enter the game fresh looking for redemption from a 74-72 loss inside Whalen Gymnasium a year ago.

Griego said Candelaria would be a game-time decision.

“We have another tough game. It’s not going to get any easier for us,” Griego said. “The good thing about our team is we want to play against good competition and want to compete. I look forward to seeing us bounce back and think we will bounce back and be just fine.”

jlivingston@durangoherald.com

Jan 29, 2021
Hawk heartbreak: No. 6 Colorado Mesa escapes in OT at Fort Lewis College