CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves basketball Coach Kip Drown stressed playing good defense to his team all week. They would need it; they were up against the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, who drain a nation’s best 52 percent of their shots.
The Pack played a smothering defense, knocking off the Skyhawks, 70-68 in overtime, Friday afternoon, and holding them to only 40 percent from the field.
“That was a great college basketball game,” Coach Drown said.
The ThunderWolves knew what they had to do on Friday to keep their hopes of an RMAC Shootout Championship alive. The season hinged on their ability to knock off the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, the number ninth-ranked team in the country, and the team who they’d dropped two games to this year.
Avenging two regular season losses was nothing new for the Pack though. Just one week ago they traveled to Grand Junction, Colo. to take on a favored Mesa State team, who they’d also dropped the first two meetings with this season. The Pack traveled home victorious.
Led by Lindsay Black’s 14 first-half points, the Pack took control leading by as much as eight points with six minutes to go.
“I wanted to come out hard and make a statement, just like all my teammates did,” Black said.
The lead was cut to two at halftime after numerous Fort Lewis 3-pointers, and a CSU-Pueblo scoreless drought that lasted nearly the final three minutes of the first half.
Coming out of the break the Pack played the style they wanted to…low scoring. The Pack’s scoreless drought from the first, lasted almost five minutes into the second, and there were only five points combined scored in the first five minutes of the second half.
The teams battled back and forth in the second half, with the largest lead for either team only being four points.
With the score tied at 61, and 54 seconds left in regulation, the Pack defense shined once again forcing a 35-second shot clock violation.
“I thought the shot clock violation was a giant stop,” Coach Drown said. “It’s either you get a stop, or you lose the basketball game.”
After the Pack missed a few shots with just seconds left, and a controversial no call at the buzzer, the game which deserved nothing but the most exciting finish, headed into overtime.
In overtime sophomore Sarah Staggs stepped up her game recording two points, one steal, two rebounds, and one block in the final five minute quarter.
“We love having Sarah on the floor,” senior Mary Rehfeld said. “We know that if her shots aren’t falling, we can count on her to go in there and work her butt off on the boards.”
After taking the lead in overtime on a Rehfeld jumper to put the Pack up 70-68, the defense shined again. With only 22 seconds left in the game, the Skyhawks weren’t able to get a clean shot off before the final buzzer sounded.
In a game that had 10 ties, the Pack were led by their senior leadership of Black and Rehfeld who had a game-high 22 and 15 points respectively. Black also pulled down 10 boards, five on each end.
The Skyhawks, as they were all year, were led in points by sophomore Allison Rosel who had 15.
With the win the ThunderWolves advance to the RMAC Shootout Championship, and once again look for revenge against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers who beat Metro State in the other semifinal 59-58. The Lopers earlier this season rallied from being 16 points down to beat the Pack in overtime.
The championship game will be played at 8 p.m. on Saturday night at the Colorado State Fair Events Center.