DURANGO, Colo. — No. 17 Fort Lewis (18-4, 14-4 RMAC) made history Friday in its 61-54 win against No. 1 Metro State (22-1, 18-1 RMAC) in the Whalen Gymnasium. For the first time, the Skyhawks knocked off a top-ranked team.
“It was a historic win for Whalen Gymnasium,” FLC associate head coach Bob Pietrack said. “This has been a tough place to play for [more than] a decade. We’ve always valued the support we’ve gotten from not only Fort Lewis, but also the community of Durango.
“It was the most enthusiastic, full-of-energy crowd I’ve seen at a Fort Lewis basketball game”.
Senior guard Marcus Ayala came off the bench to spark FLC’s second-half rally. Trailing 32-28 at intermission, Ayala sparked the Skyhawks with 17 points. He finished with a game-high 25 points and went 8 of 8 from the foul line.
“Marcus [Ayala] was enormous,” Pietrack said. “He’s been the catalyst in a lot of games for us this year. When we were having trouble scoring, Marcus really stepped up and had a giant impact offensively.”
No other Skyhawk scored in double digits. Alex Herrera and Mike Matthews each scored nine points, while Wes McKenzie chipped in eight.
Fort Lewis pounded the ball into the middle, either on entry passes to centers Herrera and Torrey Udall or on drives by Ayala and Matthews. As a result, the Skyhawks got the Roadrunners into foul trouble. Metro State’s Mitch McCarron and Nicholas Kay each fouled out midway through the second half.
“We just want to play Fort Lewis basketball — get it in, get it out, cut, move,” Pietrack said. “We didn’t worry about their fouls as much, but there’s no doubt that it definitely helped down the stretch that they were in so much foul trouble.”
While Herrera may have struggled offensively and only took five shots, he was solid on the defensive end, registering five blocks.
Metro State shot just 35.8 percent from the field (19 of 53) and 12.5 percent from long range (1 of 8). In the second half, FLC limited the Roadrunners to 27.3 percent shooting from the field (6 of 22) and 22 points.
“In the second half, we mixed up our defenses quite a bit and played more of our 1-3-1 zone,” Pietrack said. “We felt that that got them out of rhythm just enough for us to gain momentum.”
Brandon Jefferson led the Roadrunners with 15 points, three steals and three assists. DeMetrius Miller added 11 points, while Morse had 10 rebounds.
Fort Lewis was previously 0-3 all-time against top-ranked teams. The Skyhawk’s snapped the Roadrunners’ 22-game win streak with the win.