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NWC Trappers Bust Slump

Posted by: Trapper Athletics — January 25, 2018

By DON COGGER Tribune Sports/News Editor
Courtesy of the Powell Tribune

Hinze Goes For 20 Back-To-Back against Little Big Horn, MCC

After a rough start to 2018, the Northwest College men’s basketball team got a bit of its groove back last week, posting Region IX North wins against Little Big Horn College and Miles Community College.

The Trappers (11-9, 2-2) are slowly working their way back to full strength after injuries to key players. Head coach Brian Erickson said a two-game win streak was just what the team needed after dropping the first two games of their conference schedule.

“Any time you lose, you tend to get down a little too much,” Erickson said. “But win or lose, we need to just go out there and leave it all on the court. We’re getting better at that and it shows. You gotta be able to enjoy what you’re doing every day.” 

After losses to Western and Central Wyoming, the Trappers badly needed a confidence boost. 

They found it in the form of a scrappy but out-matched squad in Little Big Horn. The Rams (0- 17, 0-4) suited just five players for the contest, and the Trappers used the opportunity to get everyone some playing time in the 107-82 win.

“We started out slow,” Erickson said. “It was kind of back and forth there for a while. But we started knocking down shots.”

The team hit more than a dozen 3-pointers. 

“We picked up the tempo and started getting stops,” the coach said. 

The Trappers took a 21-point lead into the locker room at 55- 34. NWC continued its offensive output in the second half, though Little Big Horn played hard to the buzzer. 

“It was a good day for the guys; I think they enjoyed playing,” Erickson said. “They were having fun, and that was probably the most important thing. They played hard and they enjoyed themselves.” 

The Trappers redefined the “team first” concept, finishing the game with 27 assists. Every player who saw minutes recorded stats on the box score, and as a team NWC shot 52 percent from the field. 

“As far as sharing the ball, I don’t think we’ve had a game like that all year,” Erickson said. “We turned it over a little bit too much, I think we had something like 20 turnovers. I think we almost got to the point where we were trying to make too many extra passes. But the guys were really enjoying seeing their teammates knock down shots.” 

Blake Hinze had the hot hand from behind the arc for the Trappers, knocking down five 3-pointers. The sophomore finished with a team-high 21 points to go along with three assists and three rebounds. 

“Blake shot it really, really well,” Erickson said. “Luc [Lombardy] shot it well, as did Reme [Torbert]. Those were the three guys that were really knocking down shots.” 

Torbert finished with a double-double, pulling down 10 boards with his 18 points. Lombardy followed with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Umar Jalloh rounded out the double-digit scorers with 11 points. 

Jordan Banks led the Trappers in assists with four, while Torbert, Jace Johnson and Calvin Fugett dished off three apiece. 

Little Big Horn’s Yberson Augustin led all scorers with 27 points. 

“We’ve needed our guard play to pick up, and it definitely did this game,” Erickson said.

NWC followed up its 27-assist performance against Little Big Horn with 21 more against visiting Miles Community College, dominating the second half and cruising to a 99-75 win. 

“We’re starting to play better as a team,” Erickson said. “The battles we’ve had all year have been with being selfish, no energy, just the effort. It’s internal battles that players and coaches are playing every day. We’re starting to move in that right direction.” 

The Trappers led from start to finish, but MCC (6-14, 0-4) kept it close in the first half with a mixture of solid shooting and an effective zone defense. NWC led just 49-43 at the half. 

“We were expecting them to try and press a little bit more, and they didn’t do that at all,” Erickson said of MCC’s defensive strategy. “We had to make some adjustments.” 

The second half was all Trappers, as MCC, besieged by turnovers, began to run out of patience. The Pioneers gave up the ball 21 times in the game, compared to just 11 for NWC. The Trappers never took their foot off the gas, outscoring MCC by 18 points in the second frame to seal the win. 

Three Trappers finished with 20 or more points, led by Jalloh’s 24-point/12-rebound double-double performance. Hinze’s 21 points gave the sophomore gunner his second straight 20-plus game, while leading the team with five assists.

“Blake Hinze played an unbelievable game,” Erickson said. “He had a couple of plays — those extra-effort plays — diving on the floor. He was just all over the place.”

Erickson also liked what he saw from Jalloh, crediting him with improving his game on both ends of the floor.

“He was really active on both ends,” Erickson said. “Reme [Torbert] shot it well, Luc [Lombardy] shot it well; it came down to our guards again. These last two games we’ve played, our guards are playing better and they’re shooting it better.”

Torbert netted 20 points for the Trappers, while Lombardy finished with 13. After sitting out the last couple of games with an injury, Laukan Taufa made the most of his limited court time, scoring eight points and dishing off four assists in about eight minutes. 

“We’re just trying to slowly work him [Taufa] back in,” Erickson said. “He played really, really well.” 

Despite the positives from both games, Erickson said there’s still work to be done. 

“We need to learn to focus for 40 minutes,” he said. “With Miles, we were up 25, then they cut it to 18. We lost focus for a few minutes. It’s all about staying focused and not letting mistakes get you, really.”

The Trappers traveled to Casper College Wednesday to take on the 15-5 Thunderbirds. They’ll return home Saturday for a game against undefeated Gillette (20-0, 4-0); tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Cabre Gym. 

“As great as it is to win a couple of games, we’re going into the hardest stretch of our schedule,” Erickson said Tuesday. “We have six more games on the road and four at home. It gets tougher and tougher as we go. We just gotta worry about one game at a time.”