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Molina and Fort Lewis College step out in style in home final

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Cesar Molina took to the court at the Whalen Gymnasium wearing his favorite jersey one last time for the Fort Lewis College men’s basketball team. The Skyhawks looked good and played well to send it off in style.

In their turquoise Nike N7 jerseys chosen by Molina, a product of Las Cruces, New Mexico, who will be graduating from FLC as an engineer this year, the Skyhawks recovered from a slow start and ended the first . half and tie the game at 47-47. Fort Lewis then took control in the second half to beat CSU-Pueblo 89-77.

“We had a great distribution all the way down – a balanced score and well-distributed minutes,” said FLC head coach Bob Pietrack. “We were happy to see this as we entered a huge week for Fort Lewis College basketball.”

FLC (6-7, 5-7 RMAC) needed the win to have any hope of making it into the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference eight-team tournament. The field will be decided by the NCAA Division II scoring percentage index. FLC finished eighth in conference winning percentages on Saturday, but 10th overall.

The Metropolitan State University of Denver canceled Tuesday’s trip to the FLC over COVID-19 concerns. This is the second time the Roadrunners have canceled their trip to Durango this year, leaving the FLC without five home games amid other complications that have played out with the schedule this season.

The Skyhawks now face Westminster College on Friday night in Salt Lake City in a huge table game, as Westminster sits 8-9 at the conference. Next, FLC will face 7th Colorado Mesa University on Saturday night at Grand Junction. The Mavericks (16-1 RMAC) beat No. 1 Colorado School of Mines (13-1, 12-1 RMAC) on Saturday night to take first place in the standings.

“We take every game this week as a playoff game,” said Pietrack. “I don’t know the RPI numbers and that sort of thing, but I do know that if you play basketball well, things work for you. (Associate Head Coach Daniel) Steffensen and I are focused on our squad playing good basketball and understanding that we need a really good week to extend our basketball season.

FLC will be the only RMAC team this season to play twice at Mines and Mesa. The Skyhawks will finish with six home games and eight road games. Of FLC’s seven losses, six were six points or less, the other being seven points.

“As for the schedule, we know where we are. We think we’re a better team than where we are at, but what you think and what you do are two different things, ”said Pietrack. “We have to find a way to overcome everything.”

Saturday’s game for FLC was highlighted by excellent ball movement. The Skyhawks had 21 assists out of 35 shots made and only returned it nine times. Molina led the way with five assists to go with three rebounds and four points. It was a special senior night for one of everyone’s most beloved Skyhawks, who returned for the 2020-2021 season a year after a broken leg ended his season earlier. With lingering pain and issues related to this injury, Molina decided to end her career rather than extend her career for another season.

Riley Farris and Brenden Boatwright, the two 6-foot-9 forwards of the FLC, each have 16 points. Boatwright added eight rebounds and six assists and even took a 3-point corner in the second half to put an exclamation mark on the Skyhawks’ win.

Will Wittman added 14 points for FLC with a big second half, while Corey Seng had 11 points and four assists. Dunnell “Scottie” Stafford also finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, as he continued to shine in the last few games for FLC on offense to go with his standout off-the-ball defense.

“Dunnell, like any transfer, took a second to plant his roots. Its roots are really planted right now, ”said Pietrack. “We put in some tips to help him reach his ideal places on the ground to take shots. He’s got a great attitude, is a team guy first, and we’re grateful to have him. He’s going to spend a good two years here after that.

Brendan La Rose was also instrumental as the Skyhawks pushed their lead to double digits. In just nine minutes, he had four points, four rebounds and two assists.

“He brought a lot of energy and rebounded the ball and played well after defense,” said Pietrack. “That’s what you need when you’re talking about a complete team win. You need everyone, and it takes a little bit of everything to win RMAC. “

Tyler Kinghorn also had eight points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes for FLC.

Although David Simental scored a high 27 points for CSU-Pueblo, the Skyhawks did a great defensive job on him to close the first half and start the second. He had scored 14 points in a flash to help the ThunderWolves quickly take the lead. It got hot late again before getting dirty.

“We didn’t get off to a good start with him, but we made an adjustment to our ball screen cover and slowed him down a bit,” said Pietrack. “But, boy, he’s awfully good. We’ve played him three times and each time we leave saying he’s a good basketball player.

Lian Ramiro added 17 points for the ThunderWolves, who were passed 35-22.

FLC shot an outstanding 62.5% for the game and scored 6 of 17 with 3 points to secure the victory.

“Anytime you have 21 assists out of 35 marks, and those don’t count free throws, it shows we’ve split the ball, moved it and got some great shots,” said Pietrack. “It was back to the kind of attack we are capable of, and it was nice to see so many guys contributing.

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