The Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team had one of the league’s best teams tied 70-70 with one minute to go inside FLC’s home gym in Durango. The visitors made the winning plays when they mattered most.
After FLC senior guard Katrina Chandler made two free throws to tie the game, Westminster College senior point guard Mariah Martin sliced through the Skyhawks’ defense and finished a right-handed layup to give the Griffins a lead they would not relinquish.
FLC turned the ball over on its next possession, and Westminster senior forward Hunter Krebs made two free throws after FLC was forced to foul with 17.6 seconds to play. Unable to get another shot off after Alison Chanhthala lost control of her dribble behind the 3-point line and was tied up by a Westminster defender to force a jump ball and give the ball back to the Griffins, the Skyhawks would go on to lose 76-70.
FLC had only four turnovers in the first half but committed 10 in the second.
“We gotta be better. We need to execute a bit better, especially down that stretch,” FLC head coach Orlando Griego said. “I thought we were a little tired at times, but that’s where that mental toughness needs to kick in.
“Those are critical turnovers we had. Playing against a really good team, you have to take care of the ball, you can’t lose possessions, you have to get shots.”
It was the second home loss of the weekend for the Skyhawks (4-6 RMAC) one night after a lopsided defeat to Colorado Mesa University. The two setbacks came after FLC had built some momentum with three consecutive wins in January.
The Skyhawks again were without senior guard Sydney Candelaria, one of the team’s top defensive players, after she also missed Friday’s games against the Mavericks. FLC also missed her experienced ball handling in the game’s closing minute.
“We miss Sydney Candelaria. She’s a big piece of when the game is coming to the end, if we can get her going left or right and make a play,” Griego said. “But our other players need to be able to step up and make those plays as well. We’re going to put them in those situations and are confident they can. They just didn’t make them tonight.”
Martin finished with 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds in the win for the Griffins (6-2 RMAC). She was 6-of-16 shooting overall but made 3-of-6 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 at the foul line. She also had two steals.
Krebs added 17 points and four rebounds, while Sarah McGinley scored 13 and Kaylee Carlsen had another 12 for Westminster.
FLC was led by sophomore forward Jordan Vasquez, who had 16 points and eight rebounds. She was forced into four turnovers.
After FLC trailed 61-53 after three quarters, a 3 from Chloe Warrington and then a turnaround jumper by Vasquez got the Skyhawks within 65-63 with 6:27 to play.
Warrington finished with a career-high 14 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and three blocked shots. The came one night after her previous career-best 11 points.
“She’s playing great. In the locker room I really pointed her out acknowledging how hard she played this weekend. That’s through her preparation all week. ... She performed really well. Really proud of her. Need her experience, 3-point shooting ability, rebounding, and three blocks is really big for her.”
Chandler scored 13 points for FLC, while Bailey Osmer had 10 points and seven rebounds.
FLC had only two players on the floor for more than 30 minutes. Westminster, after having the night off a day earlier, played all five of its starters more than 30 minutes. It was the first back-to-back night of games for the Skyhawks all season.
The Skyhawks will have a week to rest and practice ahead of a 5:30 p.m. Saturday game at University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (2-6 RMAC).
“I’m really proud of our team’s effort. We competed and played hard. That’s our first back-to-back against really good teams,” Griego said. “Biggest thing is the recovery period right now. Several players played a lot of minutes. (UCCS) is scrappy. They play hard, they got us last year, so I know our players are going to want to get them back.”