Point guard Alan Swenson knows making good decisions with the ball is his job.
Lately, the primary choice for the Northwest College freshman has been either pass to Kyle Brown or pass to Josh Petteno.
However, as the Trappers outlasted Williston State 90-86 at Cabre Gym on Sunday, either option was reliable.
“They’ve been switching off,” Swenson said. “So tell me, who’s going to be the hot one.”
How about both? As the Trappers resumed their schedule after a holiday break, Petteno pumped in 32 points, including nine 3-point shots, and Brown hit for 22 points, including the game-clinching free throws.
The victory, played before NCAA Division I recruiters from Montana State and Weber State, raised Northwest’s record to 8-8 in the team’s first game since Dec. 14.
This was a significant non-conference win as the Trappers move into Region IX play, a marker of in-season progress. Northwest lost to Williston 109-76 in North Dakota on Nov. 7.
Petteno said he is proud of the Trappers’ transformation from opening day, and Swenson said, “Oh, we needed to beat them.” Swenson helped with 12 points and 11 assists.
The Tetons, 9-6, feature a balanced inside-outside game, and guard Eden Holt hit seven 3-point shots for 26 points.
A first-half explosion from Petteno, a 6-foot-5 freshman from Venice, Italy, electrified fans and Trapper teammates.
Over a span of less than five minutes, Petteno swished five 3-pointers and was a principle reason why Northwest led 48-39 at halftime.
“I thought, ‘I might as well keep shooting,’” Petteno said.
Coach Jay Collins thought so too. Petteno admitted needing a rest break, but kept firing.
“I wouldn’t take him out until he missed,” Collins said.
Even though Petteno had another spurt in the second half, and the 6-2 Brown made clutch plays, this was not an easily taken game.
There were 11 ties and only briefly more than a one basket lead over the last 14 minutes.
Every possession took on more value, magnifying 6-5 forward Jerome Mabry’s NWC scrappy contributions. He scored 10 points and snatched a game-high 17 rebounds while playing tenacious defense on 6-8 and 6-9 guys.
“I had to keep them off the glass,” Mabry said. “It showed we can step up as a team and we did.”
Williston pushed ahead 80-74, but Northwest immediately eliminated that gap. The score was 81-81, before the Tetons went up 83-82.
“We knew they were going to make a run and we had to withstand it,” Collins said. “We’ve shown a lot of heart. They don’t give up.”
Northwest forward Max Dehon, hit a timely 3-pointer with two-and-a-half minutes to play and grabbed a clutch rebound.
“That was an unbelievably big offensive rebound,” Collins said, “and he stuck a big shot.”
Northwest led 88-86 with 5.1 seconds on the clock when Swenson handed a pass-in to Brown, who as expected was promptly fouled.
Brown made both free throws while thinking, “I’ve got to seal the game.”