Trappers Fall Short In Upset Bid 89-83
For 35 minutes Saturday, the Northwest College men’s basketball team had the No. 11 team in the nation on their heels, looking to pull the upset of the year and extend their season.
But with time winding down, the Sheridan Generals (29-2, 13-1 in Region IX North) relied on can’t miss 3-point shooting from sophomore Adham Eleeda to escape with an 89- 83 win in the Region IX tournament play-in game in Sheridan, ending the Trappers’ (10-21, 3-12) season.
“Man, that was a barnburner,” said NWC head coach Dawud Abdur-Rahkman. “We were winning the entire game, we just couldn’t put it away.”
He said it was easily the best the Trappers had played all year.
“For 35 minutes, we played the best basketball we could,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “The last five minutes, we just didn’t have enough left in the tank.”
The Trappers went into the game shorthanded, with Brian Howell no longer on the active roster and Kyle Brown and Saheem Anthony out due to injury and illness.
“We were decimated,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “And we still almost pulled it off. I mean, Reme [Torbert] played 40 minutes. I couldn’t be more proud of those guys, the way they fought. We had that gym quiet a long time. But when it got loud, it was deafening.”
Sophomore Calvin Fugett, always a threat to score when his game is on, took things to another level against Sheridan, leading all scorers with 28 points, including three 3-pointers.
“He [Fugett] is one of those kids that when he makes a couple of shots he gets into a rhythm,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Whenever we’d start to falter, I’d just try to run the offense through him, make sure he got that ball in his hands. You never know when guys are going to raise up and do something — he rose up.”
Fellow sophomores Torbert and Lagio Grantsaan also made the most of their final game as Trappers, scoring 23 and 19 points, respectively; Grantsaan also had a team-high five assists.
Darius Webster finished with eight points, and led the team in boards with nine. Max Dehon only netted a point, but grabbed four defensive rebounds and dished off two assists.
“Max [Dehon] played some meaningful minutes; he helped us when we needed it,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “It was a big game for Max, and Axel Okongo also had a nice game protecting the rim. It was just a total team effort.”
The Trappers shot an impressive 46 percent from behind the arc, sinking 12-of-26 shots; Grantsaan and Torbert finished with four treys apiece. Not to be outdone, the Generals’ one-two punch from 3-point land of Eleeda and Javary Christmas combined for 13 3-pointers as Sheridan countered with 15-of-28 for 53 percent.
“It seemed like they [Sheridan] came down every time in those last few minutes and scored a three,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “It was incredible. Every time down.”
It was a somber end to a roller-coaster season, though Abdur-Rahkman said it wasn’t all about wins and losses with this team.
“All the things these kids went through, it’s just crazy,” an emotional Abdur-Rahkman said of the team’s turbulent off-season. “I feel bad for them, you know? They didn’t have to buy into any of this. But they did. And in spite of all the injuries and illnesses, guys leaving, not wanting to buy in. They were dealing with that all year. They came together, and they’ll all benefit from it.”
Despite the team’s losing record, Abdur-Rahkman said coaches at four-year schools have taken an interest in just about every player on the roster, based on the way they’ve played this season.
“I told the guys when I came in that I would put them in a situation with the way I’d have them play, that they would be able to go play for somebody after this,” he said. “Coaches notice. That’s what this is about. These kids want to go play somewhere. My job is to put them in the best position to do that, and I think I have. I expect great things from all of them.”
Like his colleague over on the women’s side, Abdur-Rahkman’s status as head coach for next season is up in the air; as an interim, he knew going in the job would be up for grabs at season’s end. That said, he plans on applying for the permanent position with an eye toward building the program into something special.
“I like to win, but it’s not why I do this,” he said, adding, “I’d like to see what the possibilities could be. I think there’s a good support system here, a good fan base. They deserve to have a winning program, and I’ll continue to recruit, even though I may not be here. We’ll see what happens.”