Wed Nov 26th, 2014
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2014 Rocky Mountain Athletic-versus-Heartland Conference Challenge, Alex Herrera, Austin Haldorson, Bobcats, Fort Lewis College, ignacio high school, J.J. Bolton, Kody Salcido, Ryan Brooks, Skyhawk, St. Mary’s University, SunUte Community Center, UTPB
Ex-Bobcat bests Skyhawks’ block record
Grandson of a University of Colorado interior icon, Fort Lewis junior Austin Haldorson’s two swats Friday, Nov. 14, against St. Mary’s University showed that he, too, has shot-blocking in his blood.
FLC senior teammate Alex Herrera, however, reminded friend and foe that a type like his flows but once in a generation.
How long the Ignacio High alum’s accomplishment will endure is yet to be seen, but with a denial of Rattler senior J.J. Bolton’s 16-foot fadeaway jumper 64 seconds before halftime inside, fittingly, his hometown SunUte Community Center hangout, Herrera officially bumped Skyhawk great Rich Hillyer to No. 2 in FLC’s career rejections category and energized his side to a season-opening 70-57 victory.
“If it happened, it happened!” he said with a laugh, after his 5-block, 23-point, 10-rebound – and 6-assist, to boot – night went into NCAA Division II history. “It did happen, so it’s a great feeling.”
“Rich Hillyer… all the credit,” he continued. “He’s in the Hall of Fame up at Fort Lewis … a great player himself!”
“That was a pretty awesome feeling! So I immediately texted Laura and Rich Hillyer to let him know that [Alex] had broken it, and sent him a picture of it – because Rich has been a big fan of Alex’s and really supported him,” mother Kathy Herrera said of the much-anticipated moment.
“He couldn’t be here … but he was really excited that Alex broke his record. And our families are very close, so it’s nice that it’s something that could be kept locally. I’m a very proud mom tonight.”
On day two of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Athletic-versus-Heartland Conference Challenge, was Odessa, Tex.-based UT-Permian Basin – an aggressive squad which had thoroughly out did Western New Mexico University 101-57 in the tournament’s initial tilt.
“They’re really physical, like to get up in you,” Brooks said. “We know that if we keep moving the ball then they’ll eventually break down defensively, so … just stay strong with the ball, get a body on someone, rebound, and play our game; don’t fall into their game.”
With neither former Cat having yet scored against the Falcons, Fort Lewis did so on one occasion – 5:46 into the first half, UTPB junior center Andre Smith scored inside to give the outsiders an 11-9 advantage … which lasted all of 25 seconds before his counterpart, Herrera, then converted a three-point play with the first of an eventual 17 free-throw makes in 24 attempts.
Lay-ins by Herrera and junior forward Kody Salcido put FLC up 16-11, and Brooks later made the margin 18-12 with his first basket of the ‘Homecoming’-rooted event just before the half’s midway point.
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but I’ve been playing this game for a long time and I just knew to go play my hardest,” Brooks said, who finished with four points and a steal in five minutes.
“It was awesome playing in front of the hometown again; Ignacio definitely has the best fans around. So that was an awesome experience.”
In the way he’d started the scoring versus St. Mary’s, Herrera thundered home a Lucas Archuleta pass for a 46-32 lead on UTPB 1:08 before intermission, when the Skyhawks were still ahead 48-37 but had gotten a glimpse of the Falcons’ three-point shooting [7-of-11 in the half, 13-of-21 for the game].
Fortunately Fort Lewis had been 23-of-28 at the charity stripe during the first 20 regulation minutes, and would finish 46-of-61 (75.4%) in a foul-filled, but down-to-the-wire 101-97 triumph.
UTPB senior big John Bailey, senior guard Thomas Feeney, Smith and senior Stephen Thompson all fouled out as did Hawk sophomore guard Will Morse, and four more Falcons (along with FLC’s Archuleta) finished with four fouls apiece.
Herrera had a chance to put Fort Lewis’ 100th point on the board with 0:32 remaining, but halved his two FT tries, making the score 99-92. Junior guard Cade Kloster then clanked a pair 13 ticks later before Archuleta finally brought up the century with only 12 seconds left.
“Once I got up there…just got to be confident,” he said, 15 points to his name. “We made the ones that we needed.”
“We just talk about doing our best and the rest will take care of itself. I thought it was a great event for us…very fortunate to get out with two victories.” head coach Bob Hofman, a former CU player said.
UT-Permian Basin (1-1 overall) got a game-best 26 points from senior guard Madison Turner, and 24 of its 52 bench points from junior guard Malcolm Hill-Bey, and 14 from junior guard Lamar Falley.
FLC managed only 34 points from its reserves, but with Herrera racking up a team-high 25 points (and 11 boards and three more blocks), dominated second-chance scoring 18-5, and won the points-in-the-paint battle 32-26.
Junior guard Jared Smith netted 14 points, and Kloster and Morse each booked ten.
“It was just great to be home. I mean it’s where we grew up, where we practice sometimes to get shots up … over the summer,” Alex Herrera said. “It’s just a great feeling to be here. Playing some college games, and to get a win – I can’t express how happy I am.”
“All in all I was pleased how it went under pressure,” Hofman said. “We have great attitudes on our team. We’re hoping we can make this an annual event.”
SMU (1-1) started day two’s play on a 19-0 run against Western New Mexico, and dropped the Mustangs to 0-2 in coasting to a 77-52 win prior to FLC-v-UTPB.
POSTSCRIPT: By averaging 24 points, 10.5 rebounds and totaling eight blocks – giving him 216, eclipsing Hillyer’s 208 amassed from 1985-89 – in downing St. Mary’s and UT-Permian Basin, Herrera was named RMAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week, the circuit’s first such award of the 2014-15 season.
And things have only gotten better.
Heading into games Nov. 28-29 against Mid-America [Olathe, Kan.] Nazarene University and UC-San Diego inside Colorado School of Mines’ Lockridge Arena up in Golden, Herrera’s blocks total had rapidly increased to 230 after back-to-back seven-swat performances inside Whalen Gymnasium versus Northern New Mexico (Nov. 18) and Eastern New Mexico (Nov. 20), helping FLC improve to 4-0 overall.
He also went off for a combined 50 points and 23 rebounds, while Brooks totaled four and three.
Six-foot-nine like his grandfather and also wearing his #22, Haldorson injured his right knee after registering seven points and five boards versus UTPB and was inactive for both subsequent contests.