Fresh off an upset victory against the No. 2 team in the country, the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team is ready to rock in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout.
FLC (16-10, 13-9 RMAC) came out on top in a three-way tiebreaker for the No. 3 seed in the RMAC Shootout after beating national No. 2 Colorado Mesa (25-1, 21-1 RMAC) on Saturday night.
Now, the Skyhawks welcome the No. 6 seed Black Hills State (13-13, 12-10 RMAC) to Whalen Gymnasium for a first-round game in the Shootout.
“The team is pretty focused. They had to be because we only had a one day turnaround to prepare to play a whole different game,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said when asked about his team’s focus after the upset win Saturday. “I think if we would’ve had two or three days they may have felt some effects from Saturday’s game, but I think they have let it go pretty well. I did tell them not to let go of the momentum of that win, though.”
Making it easier for the Skyhawks to dial in on the BHSU Yellow Jackets is the memory of a 77-69 home loss to BHSU back on Jan. 4. The Yellow Jackets are one of only two teams to beat the Skyhawks at Whalen Gym this year.
“After watching our last game against them, I got frustrated all over again,” Flores said. “I felt like we didn’t play well that game. Credit to them, they were a lot tougher than we were. They have kids with toughness.”
Flores hopes his team can match BHSU’s physicality Tuesday night. He also wants to see his team shoot the ball better than they did the previous matchup. FLC shot just 37.7 percent in that game and went 3-of-16 from behind the 3-point line.
“We are a different team than we were when we played them last time. For us, that’s a good thing because I think we are a better team than last time,” Flores said. “When you have lost to someone, you have a bad taste in your mouth. There is definitely a little bit of that going on.”
BHSU had four players — Calli Bechtel, Chelsey Biegler, Dakota Barrier and Taylor Trohkiminen — score in double figures against the Skyhawks while shooting 48.9 percent and 4-of-12 from 3-point range.
FLC was led by Christie Groh and Erika Richards in the previous matchup as the two seniors scored 18 points each. Richards is coming off a career night when she scored 37 points in the upset win against Colorado Mesa, but Flores said his team can’t rely too heavily on any one player to carry them in the tournament.
“Our team is crazy. We hope Erika stays hot because that really helps us, but, throughout the year, it has been a mix between the seniors with Erika, Ashley (Kuchar) and Christie Groh. It always rotates,” Flores said. “What we do is find the hot hand and then try to do things to feed that person and allow them to have a big game.”
Flores said his team’s goal is to have more than 20 assists. Last time FLC faced BHSU, the Skyhawks were limited to 16 assists while turning the ball over 17 times.
“We are not great one-on-one players. Everything is predicated on playing within the system and getting the ball to whoever is getting hot,” he said.
After earning the No. 3 seed, FLC has a favorable bracket in the RMAC Shootout. With a win Tuesday, Flores believes his team can beat either No. 2 CSU-Pueblo or No. 7 Metro State on a neutral floor in the semifinals. He also knows a win or two could very likely send his team to the NCAA Division II tournament, though he won’t allow his team to look that far ahead, yet.
What excites the Skyhawks even more is the opportunity to play a 5:30 p.m. game before the FLC men’s team takes the floor in its RMAC Shootout game against CSU-Pueblo.
“It is a big thing for us. We are the only school in the conference with both teams hosting a first-round game. That in itself speaks to how hard it is to do,” Flores said. “I know both of our teams are really proud of that fact.”