The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team is heading into its second matchup of the season against Northern New Mexico College, and the Skyhawks are ready for a rematch.
Fort Lewis (2-1) will host the Eagles (1-11) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday inside Whalen Gymnasium, and it will be the second time the teams meet after FLC beat the Eagles handily Nov. 2 in Española in what was an exhibition for the Skyhawks.
In the exhibition, Fort Lewis could not be stopped from 3-point range, as the Skyhawks went 10-of-24. Sydney Candelaria scored a game-high 26 points on 10-of-13 shooting and was 5-of-7 from deep.
First-year Fort Lewis College head coach Orlando Griego said his team has practiced well this week after dismantling New Mexico Highlands University last Friday and will be up for the challenge.
“The girls worked extremely hard this week,” Griego said. “The biggest thing we are talking to our girls about is that we can really learn from playing a team once, and then playing them again, which is similar to our league. (Northern New Mexico) is going to go back and look at the film, and we did, too, and that’s what will happen in league. We have to be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
The Skyhawks are led by a trio of balanced scorers. Freshman forward Jordan Vasquez has averaged a team-high 11.6 points per game in addition to 5.7 rebounds per game. Junior guard Katrina Chandler is at 10.7 points per game through three games, while senior guard Kayla Herrera-Flores is at 10.5 per game.
Griego said his team has put a big emphasis on crashing the glass for both defensive and offensive rebounds. The Skyhawks are averaging 27 defensive rebounds per game, while they have averaged 16.7 offensive rebounds per game. Herrera-Flores leads the team with 3.5 offensive rebounds per game, while Vasquez is at three per game.
“Our point of emphasis this week at practice has been rebounding,” Griego said. “We know we can do a better job of boxing out. We’ve got to be aggressive and go after the loose balls on the offensive side of things. If we can control the glass, I think it will really help open up our offense.”
After 12 games, the Eagles are averaging 35.3 rebounds per game, but have struggled with getting second-chance opportunities, as they average just 11.1 offensive rebounds per game. They are slightly better on defense at 24.25 defensive rebounds per game.
Haley Eaves is the Eagles’ leading scorer with 10.9 points per game, and leads the team in 3-point shooting, as she is 29-of-113 on the season at 25.7%. She is the only player averaging double-digit scoring, as Ahmaya Smith is second on the team with 9.5 points per game, while Zhane Lewis is third with 8.9 per game.
The Eagles have struggled holding onto the ball, as they average 18.3 turnovers per game. With an added emphasis on forcing turnovers, Griego believes his guards will be aggressive Saturday. FLC has been excellent in making teams pay for turning over the basketball, as the Skyhawks have averaged 16.3 points per game off of turnovers, while opponents have only been able to score 11.3 per game. FLC has forced 17.7 turnovers per game.
“We’ll definitely be jumping into passing lanes,” Griego said. “We will but ball pressure on whoever has the ball, and as we’ve been saying, our best offense comes from our defense. We want to be aggressive, and I believe it will lead to transition opportunities, and we can put pressure on them right away.”
While the Skyhawks have worked plenty on their rebounding and transition opportunities, Griego also said he would like his guards to be more aggressive when driving into the lane.
“It really starts with getting the ball into the post and establishing our position. After we establish our position, the outside should open up more, and we’ve been working a lot on attacking the basket for a tough inside-out game. We want to start getting to the free-throw line and be more aggressive.”
FLC will also play University of the Southwest at home at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. These are the final two tuneup games before conference begins Dec. 6.
“We’re excited to be at home again,” Griego said. “It’s another big chance to play in front of our home crowd. I think our girls are ready, and we’re excited.”
If you go
Northern New Mexico College (1-11) at Fort Lewis College (2-1)
Women’s college basketball
3:30 p.m. today
Whalen Gymnasium, FLC campus