The Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves women’s basketball team narrowly escaped with a victory over the Fort Lewis College Skyhawks Saturday night, 63-61.
This game catapults Pueblo, 17-6 (15-2), to a most likely insurmountable three game lead over the the Skyhawks, 18-5 (12-5).
The ThunderWolves have beaten FLC twice this season and now hold a three game lead plus the tiebreaker with just five games to play in the regular season.
Senior guard Astrea Reed is hoping that FLC gets the chance to get their vengeance in the RMAC tournament.
“I think that’s what we are all looking forward to,” Reed said. “We will be on the road next week so we just have to get those wins, get our heads straight, and play them again in the RMAC tourney.”
This game was a battle and a true fight between two RMAC powerhouses and was a heartbreaking loss for the Fort.
The game started out physically and just kept getting more so throughout the contest. FLC’s obvious plan of attack coming in on defense was to try and keep Pueblo out of the paint. Senior Kelsey Wainright and junior Alyssa Yocky played tremendous post defense throughout the game on the ThunderWolves leading scorer Molly Rohrer.
Rohrer was went 5-21, 23.8%, in the game with all of her 12 points coming in the second quarter.
“For the most part we battled that pretty well,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “In the second quarter, that’s when we didn’t. I would have liked to make that tougher cause she still got 12 points and we kind of let down a little bit then, but then we came back around.”
The game was tied after one quarter and then , behind a strong second quarter from Rohrer, the ThunderWolves took a five point lead going into the half with a score of 31-26. It looked like all of the momentum was with them heading into the second half.
However, the Skyhawks came out swinging in the second half and took the five point lead heading into the final period with a score of 49-44.
With just over six minutes left in the game, the Skyhawks held their biggest lead, eight points. Although the momentum was in their favor, that is when the proverbial wheels started to come off.
“Stagnant,” Flores said. “We missed easy shots and then we put them on the free throw line. It was one-on-one, no sets, it was like when it’s your turn to get the ball then go and try to attack them and make a play and they either scored out of it our we put them on the line and they made free throws.”
The refs began to call everything very close and FLC kept sending the ThunderWolf players to the free throw line. Pueblo scored nine of their 19 fourth quarter points at the free throw line and that was the difference in the game.
“Bailing them out,” sophomore guard Kayla Herrera said. “They get to the free-throw line and they get two free attempts and that gives a team momentum and we can’t bail them out like that.”
The fouls coupled with the 14 Skyhawk turnovers proved to be the true difference in the game. Reed committed two crucial turnovers in the final minute to salt away the game for the Thunderwolves.
“When we did a good job executing, we got good looks,” Flores said. “When we got stagnant and when we get to standing, no matter who it is, when we have a lot of players that are having to try and create early, it’s tough for us and our field goal percentage dives when we do that.”
With the score 63-61 in favor of the ThunderWolves, star freshman Vivian Gray stole the ball away with 40 tics left, got the outlet to Herrera, who took one dribble and passed it to a Reed who was streaking up the court for the layup and instead of converting the try, she was called for a travel, giving Pueblo another shot to salt the game away.
Gray finished the game with another double-double to add to her season total. She had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks.
After a defensive stop, Flores called a timeout with five seconds left in regulation, still with a score of 63-61. He drew up a play to seemingly get Gray the ball. The inbounds pass from senior Shelby Patterson went to Reed, who subsequently tried to get the ball to Gray at the high post but threw the ball to far over her head and committed the last turnover that ended the game for the Fort.
Looking ahead for the Skyhawks, they go on the road for their next four games before having their senior night home finale on Saturday, Feb 24 at 5:30 p.m.
“Our mindset and our goal has to be that Pueblo is going to host the RMAC tournament and we need to win freaking games,” Flores said. “We need to be better and we need to not let games slip away from us.”