The one that didn’t get away was the game played far away.
Nearly lost in last Saturday’s hubhub over Sophomore Night and playing the top team in Region IX was the important win from a few days earlier.
The Northwest College women’s basketball team topped Miles Community College 61-55 in Montana last Wednesday.
This victory produced several pluses. The win was the 21st of the season for the Lady Trappers, the most in coach Janis Beal’s nine-year tenure. It moved them into second in the region, ahead of Miles, and it came the hard way.
After trailing in the first quarter and by 10 points in a low-scoring half, the Trappers ramped up the defense and held the Pioneers to nine points in the third quarter and 23 in the second half.
“We knew it was a really big game for us,” forward Dani McManamen said. “We came out with a lot of defensive intensity.”
Although the Trappers fell to 26-2 Casper 63-56 at home last Saturday, the Miles win means Northwest should host a league playoff game March 2.
Two road games remained on the regular-season schedule this week against Sheridan and Gillette, both teams Northwest beat in January.
At Miles, forward Kira Marlow scored 18 points and guards Tala Aumua-Tuisavura (12) and Tayla Sayer (10) were also in double figures.
“Against Miles, the girls really battled in the second half,” Beal said. “Basically, we started playing our game. We needed that one for seeding purposes.”
Entering this week’s play, the Trappers are 21-7 and 9-3 in league. Miles is 22-6, but 8-4 in league play.
“Beating Miles was one of those kinds of games that show how much we’ve grown,” Beal said.
Casper was ranked 15th nationally last week, but the Trappers had a quick start, leading 16-9 in the first quarter and for most of the second quarter.
The Thunderbirds ruled the second half, but only by small margins.
“I think it shows if we take care of the little things, we can play with them,” Beal said. “The exciting part of this group (Northwest) is we’re not done yet.”
Those little things included 25 turnovers, although Casper committed 20.
Center Dallas Petties led the Trappers with 19 points, Aumua-Tuisavura had 10, and Kaylee Brown eight.
“We should have won,” Petties said. “Our turnovers were killing us.”
Despite the loss it was a celebratory day, with sophomores accompanied by families and boyfriends for a post-game ceremony when they were presented with flowers and other gifts.
“Once a Trapper, always a Trapper,” McManamen said.
Guard Domenica Gomes, one of the team’s nine sophomores completing Trapper play, said having a home playoff game will bring bonus benefits.
“We have an opportunity to have two Sophomore Nights,” Gomes said.