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Fort Lewis College women’s basketball shuts down University of the Southwest in win

Skyhawks hold Mustangs to 18% shooting

The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team played remarkable shutdown defense on Tuesday, as the Skyhawks held the University of the Southwest to under 20% shooting in an 87-35 win inside Whalen Gymnasium.

The Skyhawks (4-1) ended the non-conference portion of their schedule in impressive fashion, as Fort Lewis held the Mustangs in check all night, limiting them to just two 3-pointers, and forced 19 turnovers.

Four Skyhawks finished in double-digits, as Jordan Vasquez led FLC with 16 points and had 10 rebounds for a double-double. Sydney Candelaria finished with 14 points, Bailey Osmer and Jordan Carter each had 10. Katrina Chandler had a team-high six assists.

The Mustangs (1-7) were led by Elisa Gonzalez, who finished with a team-high eight points, while Mykal Thomas had six and Rhianna Bortoli had five. They were 12-of-66 from the floor on the night for a final shooting percentage of 18.2%, and were 3-of-22 from 3-point range.

While Fort Lewis head coach Orlando Griego was impressed with his team’s defense, he also thought the distribution was strong for the second consecutive game, as the Skyhawks had 27 assists, and five players had at least three.

“Our girls worked really hard today, and the last couple of days in practice, the biggest thing that sticks out to me is sharing the ball,” Griego said. “We’ve done that well for the last two games now, and getting people involved and having a solid scoring balance, it’s nice to have.”

FLC also had strong play from its bench, as the Skyhawks finished with 44 bench points compared to 17 for the Mustangs. It was the second consecutive game in which the bench scored more than 20 points, after the Skyhawks combined for 22 in Saturday’s win over Northern New Mexico College.

“It’s great when you can get everyone involved. Jordan Vasquez and Bailey Osmer coming off of the bench had big games for us,” Griego said. “They provide great energy and we really believe in them to score the ball, but also to defend and grab rebounds. It’s nice to have those utility players to come off of the bench and do those things for us.”

Fort Lewis got off to a fast start, as the Skyhawks shot 43% in the first quarter. After the score was briefly tied at 4-4, Fort Lewis went on an 18-0 run, which started with a Candelaria 3-pointer and ended when Thomas made a layup for the Mustangs with 55 seconds remaining. The Mustangs went 0-for-12 during the 6-minute, 50-second stretch. By the end of the first quarter, Fort Lewis led 22-8, and its defense would only get more stingy.

In the second quarter, the Mustangs’ shooting woes continued, as they made one shot and three free throws. They were 0-of-7 from beyond the arc, and the lone field goal came when Gonzalez made a jump shot with 3:16 to go in the half. Gonzalez was their lone scorer in the quarter with five points, three of which came at the free-throw line.

University of the Southwest head coach Devonte Brewer said his team’s shot selection was off all night.

“We couldn’t make shots and got killed on the boards,” Brewer said. “We were out-rebounded 67-37 in the game, and they usually gave us just one shot. If we didn’t make that one shot, they were on it and were going the other way. We kept them at 29% on 3-pointers, and held them to 40% shooting, but we couldn’t hit shots to try and keep up with them.”

In the second half, FLC continued to disrupt the Mustangs’ offensive flow, and the Skyhawks continued to hit shots. Candelaria was 4-of-5 from the floor in the second half, and had nine points. She recorded back-to-back double-digit performances after she scored 11 on Saturday. Her offensive breakout came after she scored three points each against Eastern New Mexico and New Mexico Highlands. On Tuesday, she chipped in on other areas of the floor, as she grabbed five rebounds and had three assists, all without turning the ball over.

“I’ve kind of been in an offensive slump,” Canedlaria said. “But I just try and keep my confidence up, and try to keep scoring. I try to look for other ways to get people the ball, and it’s easier when I have my teammates and coaches that still score and shoot.”

Even sitting at 4-1, Griego knows his team has more work ahead of them before conference play begins. The Skyhawks open Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play on Dec. 6 against New Mexico Highlands at 5:30 p.m. at Whalen Gymnasium.

“Even though we allowed 35 points, there’s still some defensive assignments that we missed,” Griego said. “We put in some new schemes late last week, and we’re trying to put those in today and in a game situations. We’re going to go back to the drawing board and work on those in practice. Obviously, offensively, we have to continue to execute and have a really even-balanced attack with going down into the post and being able to shoot in the perimeter. We’re excited and we’re ready. These girls work extremely hard, and are ready to start conference.”

bploen@ durangoherald.com

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