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Men’s basketball plays final game of the season at conference shootout

The 2015-16 men's basketball team | Photo courtesy of
The 2015-16 men’s basketball team | Photo courtesy of

The CSU-Pueblo men’s basketball team played its final game of the season on Tuesday, falling to the tournament’s No. 1 seed, the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, 89-86 in the first round of the 2016 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Shootout.

After clinching the tournament’s eighth and final seed, following an impressive season in which the Pack accumulated 16 wins, the Pack took to the road against FLC in Durango, to take on the No. 8 ranked Division II basketball program in the nation.

Sophomore guard Will Newman led the team in scoring with 22 points off the bench, and a closely contested first half that saw six lead changes amounted in a four-point deficit for the Pack at the conclusion of the first half.

With a dominant start to the second half, FLC turned their 4-point advantage into a 16-point lead with 9:22 left on the clock. In an underdog role on the road in which it would be easy for the Pack to let their deficit turn the game into a one-sided affair, the Pack refused to exit the tournament without a fight, and appropriately, came out shooting in the Shootout.

At 76-60, the Pack hit big shots down the stretch to shift the game’s momentum, with sophomore guard’s Newman and Josh Smith, each totaling five points in the following five minutes to create a 12-1 run for the Pack and reduce FLC’s lead to five at 77-72, with just 4:11 left in the contest.

Regaining their composure, the Skyhawks their lead to 81-72 with the clocking ticking down to just 2:55. Once again, however, senior guard Chris Golden answered the call in his last career game as a CSU-Pueblo Thunderwolf,  scoring 6 points in an 8-0 run that left the Pack trailing by just one heading into the game’s final moments.

Unfortunately, the admirable late game heroics by the Pack would not be enough, as FLC junior guard Joshua Blaylock, powered his team past the Thunderwolves with a 19-point, 8-rebound performance, including a 3-point, nail-in-the-coffin, that put the Skyhawks ahead by two possessions with only 37 seconds left on the game clock.

The game was a thrilling one for the Pack, who fought valiantly to make a contest between the RMAC’s No.1 and No. 8 seeds, have the feel and tempo of a championship contest.

Statistically speaking, the game could not have been much closer, with CSU-Pueblo making 32-of-62 shots from the field, and FLC making just one less basket at 31-61 shooting. CSU-Pueblo had 13 assits, FLC had 14. 33 rebounds for the Pack, 34 for the Skyhawks.

Although the season is now over for the Pack, the program has much to be proud of. In a 16-win season in which the team had to battle to even make the RMAC Shootout, the team showed Tuesday just how much it deserved to be included in the tournament.