A short-handed Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team didn’t have enough in overtime to fend off constant counters from South Dakota Mines.
After the Skyhawks fought to force overtime in the first game since the winter break, the visiting South Dakota Mines Hardrockers would outscore FLC 16-11 in overtime to claim an 84-79 win inside Whalen Gymnasium in Durango. It was the third consecutive loss for the Skyhawks.
FLC (2-3, 1-3 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) played without the services of two 6-foot-9 forwards in Brenden Boatwright and Brendan La Rose, while starting point guard Cesar Molina was limited to only four minutes after not practicing all week.
The Skyhawks were outscored 48-20 in the paint, missed 12 free throws and had 13 turnovers with three key giveaways in overtime that led to six points.
“Credit to South Dakota Mines, they played a good game,” FLC head coach Bob Pietrack said. “We played our starters a lot, and those guys were a little tired in overtime. That’s why the turnovers came I think. Then, you gotta make. We didn’t shoot free throws very well, and those three costly turnovers in overtime were the difference in the ball game.”
Riley Farris scored a game-high 31 points for the Skyhawks with 20 of those in the first half. The Skyhawks’ senior forward also had seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots.
FLC senior Corey Seng had 16 points. He drove to the basket and scored through a foul to convert a three-point play with nine seconds to go in regulation. With his made free throw, FLC tied the game at 68-68 to force overtime, as a 3-point buzzer shot from South Dakota Mines’ Brannagh Walsh came up short off the rim.
Seng added six rebounds and four assists but went a shaky 6-of-11 at the foul line.
“Both (Farris and Seng) played well. We needed better from everybody collectively,” Pietrack said. “That’s coaches and players. I think we have a good team, we just played three straight games that we lost in really good games. We just have to figure out a way to finish them.”
South Dakota Mines redshirt freshman guard Brevin Walter checked into the overtime period with 3:57 to play and the Skyhawks ahead 72-68, as a layup by Will Wittman and a dunk from Tyler Kinghorn had the Skyhawks in front early. Walter would make a key 3-pointer followed by another jumper, and the Hardrockers claimed a lead of 82-79 with 26 seconds to play.
“He was 5-of-21 on the season coming in, and their whole team had only made three 3s in all of regulation,” Pietrack said of Walter. “Credit to him, the kid got loose twice and knocked in two big shots.”
Alejandro Rama, who led the Hardrockers with 24 points, scored eight points in the overtime, including a 4-for-4 showing from the foul line.
Pietrack pointed to FLC’s 16-of-28 performance at the free-throw line. The Skyhawks also had only 10 bench points after it had averaged 33.25 per game from the bench in the previous four games. Some of that could be attributed to the short bench with unavailable players.
Sophomore guard Akuel Kot scored 11 points for FLC. Wittman had eight points, four assists and two blocks.
South Dakota Mines guard Wilfred Dickson scored 16 points in 29 minutes after he fouled out early in overtime. Kolten Mortensen added 13 points, 10 rebounds and three steals for the Hardrockers.
FLC, which has been burned defensively by the 3-pointer, did hold the Hardrockers to 5-of-19 from long range in the game, with two makes in the overtime and none in the first half. Pietrack said defending the 3-point shot was a priority and led to more man defense on the interior, where FLC was without two of its key big men.
The game had been rescheduled from what was supposed to be the season opener Dec. 5. COVID-19 cases led that game to be postponed.
Now, FLC will hope to get all of its team back for a home back-to-back series Friday and Saturday against Colorado Christian University (1-6, 1-6 RMAC) and Metropolitan State University of Denver (3-3, 3-2 RMAC).
FLC will look to avenge another 84-79 loss at Colorado Christian suffered Dec. 12 in a game in which the Cougars made 15 shots from 3-point range.
“As the season goes on, every loss is tough,” Pietrack said. “But we will get back on the horse and keep riding. Hopefully, this next week we can get back our full roster and get some momentum going. It’s a long season, and you gotta keep battling.”
FLC Women’s BasketballThe Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team forfeited its game scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday against South Dakota Mines after it was placed in COVID-19 seven-day quarantine late Saturday night.
It was the second time this season the FLC women have had to cancel the game against the Hardrockers. The first, scheduled as the season opener, was postponed and rescheduled for Sunday. This time, FLC (1-4, 1-4 RMAC) took a forfeit loss because of the issue.
It is not yet known if FLC will be cleared in time to host Colorado Christian and Metro State on Friday and Saturday.