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November 20, 2008 3:30 am

NWC to face pair of top-notch teams

Written by Tribune Staff

No. 6 NJC among tournament's lineup

The Northwest College Trappers, a team loaded with freshmen and a 1-5 record, will face a pair of difficult tests this week at the 19th annual First National Bank and Trust Shootout at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell.

NWC's first game in the tournament will be against North Dakota-based Williston State College Friday night at 7:30. On Saturday, the Trappers are scheduled to square off against the Northeastern Junior College Plainsmen from Sterling, Colo., in another 7:30 p.m contest. Also scheduled as part of the event's four-team lineup is Sheridan College.

NJC opened the season with a 5-0 mark and currently is ranked No. 6 in the NJCAA Men's Division I basketball poll. The Plainsmen were scheduled to face Garden City Community College, Wednesday, Nov. 19, but results of that contest were not available at press time.

“We're facing some talented teams this weekend,” said NWC head coach Andy Ward. “Williston State is averaging right around 100 points per game. They've got an up-tempo style, and they shoot a lot of 3-pointers.”

When the Trappers face the Tetons (6-2) Friday night, Ward said his team, which has only two returning players from last year's squad, will have its hands full, particularly on the defensive end.

The Tetons have a number of players who can strike for impressive point totals on any given night, including guards Nathaniel Packineau, a sophomore, and Luke Martinez, a freshman. During a 102-95 loss to Sheridan College Tuesday night, Packineau and Martinez accounted for 30 and 28 points, respectively. Combined, those two players connected on 12 of 16 shots from 3-point range.

As for the Plainsmen, they also boast a lineup capable of lighting up a scoreboard. Like Williston State, the Plainsmen recently faced the traditionally strong Sheridan College Generals. During that matchup last Saturday, NJC scored a 107-89 victory. Leading the way for NJC against the Generals was sophomore forward Anthony Harris, who finished with 31 points. The Plainsmen also got 21 points from another sophomore forward, A.J. Wilson.

“NJC has another strong team this year, and that will make for another tough matchup,” Ward said. “We've played an extremely tough schedule this year, but I believe that will help us in the long run. Because we have such a young team, playing teams like Williston State and NJC will help our young guys learn a lot about what it takes to play at this level. Our inexperience has cost us some games early on, but as these guys get more games under their belts, I think we'll be fine.”

Unfortunately for the Trappers, it is likely they will be without one of their top players this weekend. Freshman Casper Hesseldal, a 6-6 freshman from Aarhus, Denmark, is listed as doubtful for the tournament because of an ankle sprain sustained during last Saturday's road loss at the College of Eastern Utah. The injury occurred with nine minutes remaining in the second half and with Hesseldal leading the Trappers in scoring with 17 points.

Hesseldal currently is NWC's top offensive player with 15.5 points per game. He also is a force on the boards with 6.5 rebounds per contest.

“We'd like to have Casper in the lineup this weekend, but we don't want to rush it,” Ward said.

Other leading players for the Trappers this season have been sophomore Julian Olubuyi (12 points per game), freshman Ricardo Bodra (12 ppg, 10 rebounds per game) and sophomore Jordan Harris (8 ppg, 5 rpg).

“The main thing for us is to continue improving,” Ward said. “We just need to work hard and get better each day. If we can keep doing that, it will pay off in the end.”

The tournament will open Friday at 3:30 p.m. with a matchup between Sheridan and NJC. NWC and Williston State are slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday. On Saturday, Williston State will face Sheridan at 3:30 p.m., and NWC and NJC are in the 7:30 p.m. time slot.

First National Bank and Trust Shootout
Friday, Nov. 21
• 3:30 p.m.: Sheridan vs. Northeastern
• 7:30 p.m.: Northwest vs. Williston State
Saturday, Nov. 22
• 3:30 p.m.: Williston State vs. Sheridan College
• 7:30 p.m.: Northwest vs. Northeastern