Road Losses To Gillette, Sheridan End Regular Season
Riding high off of an emotional win against Casper College two weeks ago, the Northwest College men’s basketball team hoped to ride that momentum into its final two games: A brutal, two-game road swing against the top two teams in Region IX-North.
Unfortunately, Gillette College and Sheridan College had other plans. The Pronghorns, still smarting over the end of their perfect season at the hands of the upstart Trappers in January, got their payback last Wednesday in Gillette with a 94-75 win. Three days later, the Generals would take the season sweep against NWC with a dominating 97-71 performance to end the regular season.
“We were hoping to go into the playoffs with a win; we were hoping to start that streak, try to make a run,” said Trappers head coach Brian Erickson. “It just didn’t work out for us.”
GILLETTE COLLEGE 94, TRAPPERS 75
The last time the two teams squared off, the then-undefeated and sixth-ranked Pronghorns (26-4, 10-4) were bested by the Trappers 94-89 in the Cabre Gym.
Gillette — ranked No. 25 in the latest NJCAA Division I poll — wasn’t going to overlook NWC (14-16, 6-10) in the rematch. The Pronghorns charged out to an early lead and kept their foot on the gas throughout, cruising to a 94-75 win.
“We played too much to their tempo,” Erickson said. “The things that they did really well we didn’t take away. They get out on transition, and had better rebounding. We let them hurt us on those.”
The Trappers put up 35 shots from behind the arc, hitting on 12.
“We shot too many 3-pointers,” Erickson said. “Too many long rebounds, they were going the other way, doing what they like to do. We just didn’t do enough to take away what they do well.”
NWC spotted Gillette a 12-0 lead, creating a sense of urgency for the Trappers from the outset. Erickson said he was pleased with his team’s tenacity in battling back, but the quick lead proved to be insurmountable. The Pronghorns led 45-32 at half.
“We gave them 12 points right off the bat, and ended up losing by 19,” he said. “We just couldn’t make it up. I think they had 18 points just from second-chance rebounds. We didn’t do enough to win.”
That’s not to say there weren’t bright spots for the Trappers. The team played well in spurts, moving the ball well and putting together a solid defense, according to Erickson.
“We just had those spans, three or four minutes, that we played really, really well, doing the things we needed to do,” Erickson said. “But then we’d fall away from it, go back to our bad habits. We have to play together longer, not take early shots. When we get back in transition, box out and get stops.”
Defensively, Gillette keyed on Reme Torbert and Luc Lombardy, NWC’s top scorers of late. That created opportunities for players like Axel Okongo and Jordan Banks to step up and provide an offensive spark. The Trappers finished with five players scoring in double figures, led by Banks’ 12 points and three assists, including going 4-7 from the behind the arc.
“Reme [Torbert] and Luc [Lombardy] had opportunities, but the 3-pointers we were taking were covered 3s; they weren’t great looks,” Erickson said. “That kind of goes to Reme and Luc — they gotta take better shots. When we did take good shots, move the ball, make the extra pass, we were knocking shots down. Don’t know if it was so much them taking certain guys away as it was us playing a little bit more to ourselves, being true to who we are.”
Lagio Grantsaan just missed a double-double, finishing with 11 points and nine boards, to go along with four assists. Calvin Fugett also netted 11 points and four assists. Torbert and Okongo finished with 10 points apiece.
“I think it came down to, we played a top-25 team again, a team we had beat once,” Erickson said. “We were excited we beat them and excited to play them again. We just tried to do a little bit too much, each guy.”
SHERIDAN COLLEGE 97, TRAPPERS 71
Squaring off against their second top-25 opponent in almost as many days, the Trappers were unable to replicate what worked for them the first time these two teams played in early February. That game was a back-and-forth contest from the start, with the No. 16 Generals finally outlasting NWC for an 89-84 win at Cabre Gym.
This time, however, the Region IX-North conference crown was at stake, and Sheridan played like it. All five of the Generals’ starters finished in double digits en route to a convincing 97-71 win and the top spot in the conference.
“It came down to effort,” Erickson said. “I don’t think we had enough guys that played hard enough. Some of it could have been with travel — travel all day Wednesday, play, travel home Thursday then travel again Saturday. It’s no excuse, but I think guys were a little beat up. This late in the year, it’s tough to stay focused.”
The Generals never trailed, taking a 45- 32 lead into the half. The Trappers, behind a 16-point, 10-rebound performance from Umar Jalloh, showed some grit at the start of the second half. They scored six of the final frame’s first eight points to cut the lead to nine at 47-38. Sheridan settled in, however, not allowing back-to-back baskets from the Trappers again until late in the game.
“They [Sheridan] out-played us in every way,” Erickson said. “We did some good things, but not enough to change the game. Their percentages were so high, they were taking great shots. I don’t think we were. When we get more shots than they do and you still lose by that many...it’s tough.”
Torbert led the way for NWC, netting 17 points, while Fugett finished with 15. Lombardy rounded out the double-digit scoring with 11.
“I thought Calvin [Fugett] played pretty well, he was aggressive attacking the rim,” Erickson said. “When we played inside-out and got some shots, we were pretty good. We just weren’t very sharp.”
With the regular season in the books, next up for the Trappers is the Region IX-North play-in game, scheduled for Saturday at Central Wyoming College in Riverton. Tipoff is at 4 p.m. Erickson said the team will go back to the basics.
“We need to put a big focus on close-outs, setting good screens, rotations, reading screens,” he said, adding, “When we shoot well, we’re pretty good, but when we don’t, we struggle. We need to pass up those covered looks, work to get an open look. Just things we’ve talked about all year.”
“If we can get back that mentality, I think we’ll be all right,” the coach said.