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Column: To complete its rebuild, Fort Lewis women’s basketball must learn how to win in February

Skyhawks have struggled in February under coach Taylor Harris
Fort Lewis College women’s head coach Taylor Harris coaches his team while playing Western Colorado University on Feb. 17, 2024, at Whalen Gymnasium. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Fort Lewis women’s basketball team has gradually improved the last three seasons under coach Taylor Harris.

In the first season, the Skyhawks finished 2-25 overall. They ended the season on a 17-game losing streak and finished 0-9 in February.

The Skyhawks finished 9-19 in Harris’ second season, but went 2-6 in February.

This season, Harris set the goal of making the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament, which only the top eight teams play in.

Fort Lewis was well on its way to achieving that goal. The Skyhawks had a ferocious full-court defense and were improving on offense. Fort Lewis was 11-8 overall and 8-5 in the RMAC through January.

But once again, things fell apart in February. The Skyhawks struggled to score and defend like they did earlier in the season and went 1-6 in February, which took them out of contention for the RMAC tournament.

In the six losses in February, Fort Lewis lost by an average of 18.3 points which included a 26-point loss to Adams State and a 34-point loss to Black Hills State at home. After scoring 70-plus points eight times before February, the Skyhawks only reached 70 points once in their lone win in February against Western Colorado. For the month, Fort Lewis averaged 61.5 points per game.

In Harris’ defense, the Skyhawks lost two of their post players, Sydney Bevington and Lilly Pepper, in December. Bevington and Pepper combined to average 16 points and 15 rebounds. The duo’s absence was evident in February as the Skyhawks got killed inside and in rebounding.

For the month, Fort Lewis was out-rebounded by an average of 15 rebounds per game, which is poor, but the 2-3 zone the Skyhawks play on defense is tough to rebound out of as well.

In the last two seasons, Fort Lewis has gone 3-12 in February, which is why Harris’ goal of the RMAC tournament hasn’t been achieved. The best teams in college basketball play their best basketball in February and March to get ready for the postseason, not their worst.

Harris has the program on the right trajectory and advances in recruiting should help the Skyhawks get over the February hump. Harris needs to find bigger forwards who can compete with the size and athleticism the RMAC has to offer, as well as a low-post option on offense if shots aren’t falling behind the arc.

The goal for next season was to make the NCAA tournament, Harris said at the beginning of this season. There’s a chance this could happen as Fort Lewis should return the vast majority of its rotation along with some high school players and possibly some players out of the transfer portal.

But if Harris can’t guide his team to a decent record in February next season, the upward trajectory the program has right now could shift into a flat line of mediocrity.


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