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Skyhawks win third straight on last-second bucket

Sorenson sinks game-winner; Bell named defensive player of the week
Avery Evans of Fort Lewis College battles Northern New Mexico on Friday night at FLC. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Junior Kelsey Sorenson collected a season-high 18 points on Saturday against Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University of Arizona. Sorenson’s biggest make, however, came with just over one second remaining. With the game even at 72-72, Sorenson knocked down her first free throw to break the tie and propel Fort Lewis to 73-72 win inside of Adams State University’s Plachy Hall.

The win gives the Skyhawks three in a row to improve their overall record to 3-1 – the team’s best start since the 2019-2020 season. FLC also surpassed its win total from all of last season with the victory.

“I’m proud of our resiliency tonight. This road trip was designed to test us for the RMAC road trips,” said head coach Taylor Harris. “We left Whalen Gymnasium at 11 p.m. last night, came back at 8:30 a.m., and hit the road to play a well-coached team that was rested. That’s every road trip in the RMAC, and this prepared us well.”

Fort Lewis shot 43.9% (25-of-57) from the field versus 36.5% (23-of-63) for Embry-Riddle. The Skyhawks sunk five three-pointers compared with nine for the Eagles. Fort Lewis, however, out-rebounded Embry-Riddle at a 45-31 clip – the team’s best rebounding performance of the season.

“We came in with the agenda to prove that we can be a great rebounding team. While there were possessions where we gave up a less than ideal amount of offensive rebounds, overall we did a great job of controlling the rebounds,” Harris said.

Freshman Lanae Billy also turned in 18 points to help lead the team. Billy has scored double-digit points in each of the team's four games this season, and her 18 points in Friday’s win over Northern New Mexico College tied a season high.

Senior Kaitlyn Bell had her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 15 rebounds – the most rebounds for FLC since a 17-board outing from Sorenson in February.

Bell, who is a graduate student and first-year Skyhawk, was named the RMAC defensive player of the week after Fort Lewis’ undefeated weekend. Bell also had a six-point, six-rebound game in FLC’s win against Northern New Mexico College on Friday.

Sophomore Avery Evans rounded out FLC’s double-digit scorers on Saturday with 10 points to go along with three rebounds and two assists.

Facing a 20-14 deficit after the opening 10 minutes, Sorenson jump-started Fort Lewis’ comeback with the opening bucket in the second quarter. Bell and Billy then made back-to-back layups to tie the score, 20-20.

Sorenson’s third basket put FLC up 25-23 with 6:25 to go.

The lead grew to 36-28 behind a pair of free throws from Evans. The Skyhawks then took their largest lead of the half when Brooke McGee corralled an errant pass to set up Ember Cervantes from beyond the arc, making the score 39-28. FLC led 41-33 at the half.

The third quarter was a defensive display as the teams combined for just four points through the opening four minutes of play.

Billy made it a 10-point game by dropping a pair of free throws with one minute left in the third. Sorenson’s sixth bucket made the score 56-48, but Embry-Riddle scored last to head into the fourth trailing 56-50.

The Eagles tied the game, 60-60, with a 3-pointer with 6:58 remaining and later went up, 68-62.

With under two minutes left, Cervantes went 2-2 from the charity stripe to tie the game at 68-68. Bell grabbed her 15th rebound out of a timeout, then Sorenson made a bucket from the left side of the lane to give Fort Lewis a narrow 70-68 lead. The Eagles responded with their ninth three-pointer of the contest to reclaim the lead with just 22 seconds remaining.

With ice in her veins, Billy hit a jumper with six seconds on the clock, tying the game 72-72 and forcing a timeout. Sorenson followed that up with her biggest rebound of the night, her ninth while drawing a foul to send her to the line. The junior drained her first attempt to make it a 73-72 score with just over one second to go, and the score held true as the Eagles were unable to get a shot off.

“I'm proud of Lanae (Billy) and Kelsey (Sorenson) in the courageous moments, and I was happy to see Kaitlyn (Bell) and her great effort in what she does,” Harris said. “Overall I'm proud of our fight, strength, and courage to pull out this exciting win.”

Fort Lewis will next compete in Holiday Inn Airport Thanksgiving Classic in Grand Junction. FLC will play Wayne State College on Friday and SAGU American Indian College on Saturday.