The Fort Lewis College Skyhawks men’s basketball team won a tight contest against the New Mexico Highlands University Cowboys Friday night in Whalen gymnasium, 80-72.
The win pushed FLC to 18-3 (14-2) and kept FLC in first place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. This also keeps them in control of their own playoff destiny as they have a one game lead over second place Westminster.
While the win really helps FLC, the loss damages the playoff hopes of a very underrated Highlands team. They drop to 13-9 (8-8) on the season and are in a tie for seventh place with Black Hills State, but would still be in the playoffs if the season ended today because the top eight make the postseason.
“That is a really good team we played,” Skyhawk head coach Bob Pietrack said. “There is a reason why they have 13 wins. It’s hard to win a game in college basketball and they have already won 13.”
This game started out with a bang. FLC hit three three-pointers on their first five possessions and exploded to a 15-5 lead within the first four minutes of the game. It looked like it was going to be one of those nights in Whalen. But Highlands had something to say about that.
Fresno St. transfer-guard Jacob Holland began hitting his shots and bringing the Cowboys back. By the 10 minute mark in the first half, the lead for FLC was down to one point, 20-19.
At halftime, the lead for FLC was still one, 34-33. The first half was basically a heavyweight fight between two players, Holland and Skyhawk senior DJ Miles. The players were going shot for shot in the first half and ended it with 14 and 16 respectively.
“I went to Juco with Jacob actually,” Miles said. “He was my teammate there for two years so I always love competing against him. Whenever I see him doin well that just makes me want to, you know, anything you can do I can do better.”
“DJ has been huge for us,” Pietrack said. “When you take a senior transfer, you hope it ends up working out like DJ has because he has been excellent and we are not 18-3 and 14-2 in the league without him.”
The first half also say a lot of foul trouble for the Fort. Senior Brandon Wilson, and sophomore Riley Ferris had two fouls at the half and junior Marquel Beasley had three.
However, strategic coaching and slightly less aggressive play in the second half made the foul trouble nearly irrelevant.
The Fort starting hitting open shots and quickly catapulted the lead to eight in the first five minutes of the second half. Miles’ scoring took a step back but senior superstar Rasmus Bach picked up the drop off, as did junior Alex Semadeni.
Semadeni had a huge game. He took three charges, had five total steals, scored 11 points, had five boards, and provided an energy off the bench that the team needed to win.
When the game was over and Pietrack put on his jacket, it was another home win for the Skyhawks who are now 12-0 art home this season and 42-1 at home since Pietrack took over as the head coach.
The Skyhawks will play their next game tonight at home against an always good CSU- Pueblo team at 7:30 p.m.
“Key to victory is that we just have to key into their shooters,” Miles said. “They got a lot of them and they let it fly. Their point guard, Newman I believe is his name, we just got to key in on him and make sure that he is not making the game easier for everyone around him.”
Editor’s Note: Semadeni could not comment on the game for the Independent due to his association with the organization. He is the Editor-in-Chief and this would be a conflict of interest.