Black Hills State made school history Tuesday night at the expense of Fort Lewis College.
One game after upsetting Colorado Mesa, the No. 2 team in the country, the FLC Skyhawks women’s basketball team (16-11) fell 81-71 to the Yellow Jackets (14-13) in the quarterfinal round of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout at Whalen Gym.
It was the first RMAC playoff win in Black Hills State women’s basketball history.
“They played great. I tip my cap to them for playing better than we did,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said of the second-year RMAC program. “It is the best they’ve played in a long time, and they played it at a perfect time.”
The Yellow Jackets couldn’t be bottled up in the first half as they shot 73.9 percent and 5-of-6 from behind the 3-point line. The hot shooting cooled slightly in the second half, but Black Hills State finished the game shooting 53.3 percent and 10-of-18 from 3-point range.
“We allowed them to get into a good rhythm. Once they did, they were just knocking down shots,” Flores said.
Shanna Halalilo led the Yellow Jackets with 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting and 3-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. She had the Skyhawks aggravated all night.
“The frustrating part is it was the girls who don’t usually make 3s making them all,” said FLC senior guard Ashley Kuchar, who finished with 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting. “Shanna scored 20-something, but we had her down as a driver on the scouting report. It is frustrating when you know the scouting report, and they are knocking down shots.”
Chelsey Biegler scored 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting for Black Hills State, and Gabby Haefs had 13 points. Calli Bechtel also got in double figures with 10 points.
“Tip your cap. A player who averages three or four points a game and she hits you for 23, and a few of their post players stepped out,” Flores said. “It just opens you up because then you are defending everything.”
FLC senior guard Erika Richards led FLC with 25 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 10-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. She also had nine rebounds in the game.
FLC senior forward Christie Groh finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for FLC, but she started the game 0-for-9 shooting.
As a team, FLC shot just 39.7 percent and 7-of-20 from behind the 3-point line.
It was the second loss of the year for FLC at home against Black Hills State. The Yellow Jackets proved to be an enigma the Skyhawks couldn’t figure out.
“Unlike a lot of teams in the conference, since they are new, they don’t have the old stigma about not winning at Whalen,” Richards said. “They come in and aren’t as scared maybe as other teams are.”
FLC trailed 43-34 at halftime and cut the Black Hills State lead to four points twice in the second half, but the Skyhawks never could get any closer.
“We didn’t have any momentum. We were always trying to claw back, and they would hit a big shot that was pretty deflating,” Flores said.
FLC hoped a win would get the team back in the top eight in the NCAA Division II South Central Region, which would earn the team a trip to the national tournament. FLC entered the week No. 10, and the new poll will be released Wednesday.
“We don’t know if we are done or not; we need a lot of help,” Flores said. “This loss hurts. We might be in trouble. I will look back and kick myself as a coach. What could we have done better to prolong (the seniors’) careers? Moving forward, we will be OK, but I hurt for these three seniors and wish we could have done more for them.”