The Trappers’ comeback attempt fell short during a 90-85 loss at Sheridan Saturday, three days after dropping an 84-70 contest to Casper at home Jan. 8.
Northwest is now 11-6 overall but just 1-4 in conference, which has the team tied for last place in Region IX North with Dawson and Little Big Horn.
“We still got a lot of basketball to play but each game now becomes even more important,” said head coach Brian Erickson.
The coach said his team needs to use these defeats as tools with which to get better.
“I’ve told our guys all year the L’s in the L column are lessons,” Erickson said. “Hopefully we can learn from each one of them.”
The team began 2014 with some rusty shooting. Northwest shot just 41.4 percent from the field against Sheridan and 37.5 percent from the field against Casper.
Erickson said the up-tempo pace of both games contributed to the low percentages.
“We missed more than 10
layups,” Erickson said. “(Casper and Sheridan) want to take quick shots. Our game plan going in (was) if you have an opportunity for a layup real quick, take it.”
The coach said his team struggled to finish at the rim, even in odd-man fast-break situations.
Saturday afternoon’s game against Sheridan (16-3, 4-1) saw the Trappers mount multiple comeback attempts but the team was never able to get over the hump and take the lead.
Northwest had a chance, down 88-85 with 2.9 seconds to play, but Sheridan hit two free throws to ice the game.
Erickson said the Trappers made too many mistakes to pull out a victory.
“When you go on the road the only way you’re going to get a win is by playing mistake-free,” Erickson said.
The Generals were up 43-32 at the half and extended the lead to 11 with 16:35 to play before the teams traded runs.
Northwest went on an 8-2 run to come within 51-48, but Sheridan answered with an 8-3 run of its own.
The Trappers found themselves down 10 with seven minutes left in the game, and fought to cut their deficit to five with 2:15 on the clock.
A Jonothan Newsom foul gave Sheridan a three-point play to push the score to 78-70. Northwest turned it over on the ensuing play and the Generals took advantage with a breakaway layup to regain a double-digit lead.
Out of a Trapper timeout, redshirt freshman Colin May missed a 3-pointer but the ball bounced off a Sheridan player and Northwest retained possession.
May took advantage of his second chance and drained a 3 off the inbounds play to pull the Trappers within six, 80-74, with just 58.2 seconds left.
The teams traded two-pointers to make it 82-76 with 31.6 to play before Northwest began to slow the pace of the game with fouls.
Sheridan shot just 59.1 percent (26-44) from the line, which gave the Trappers life as the game wound down.
Sophomore Gary Gordon led the Trappers with 20 points (6-11 FG, 8-12 FT) and eight rebounds.
Sophomore Gabe Solarin scored 10 points but shot just 3-of-10 from the field, including 2-of-7 from deep.
Sophomore Lawrence Fejokwu had 11 points on 4-for-6 shooting and added six boards.
Fellow big man Franklin Uzonwanne also had 11 points to go with five rebounds, but the sophomore committed six turnovers.
Freshman Cody McCoy scored his only points of the game when he hit a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining to bring NWC within five.
Sheridan was led by Frederi Dure’s 23 points (including 10-of-14 from the foul line), Joshua Adeyeye’s 11 points and nine boards and Iakeen Alston’s 12 points, six assists and four rebounds.
Northwest’s chances diminished when two of its best post players had to sit due to foul trouble. Uzonwanne and May each fouled out while Fejokwu, EJ Hubbard and KJ Rech each picked up four fouls.
“That second half we had opportunities (but) we had to go with a smaller lineup and we struggled getting rebounds,” Erickson said.
Despite the loss, Coach Erickson said he feels his team played well enough to win, just not in Sheridan.
“You go to Sheridan and you have to play perfect to come out of there with a win,” Erickson said. “I think if we played like that in some of those other games we come out with a victory.”
Northwest’s game against Casper began the same as the contest against Sheridan, but without the late-game comeback.
The Trappers fell behind 11-4 early in the first half and couldn’t come within closer than two points the rest of the way.
The T-Birds led 36-30 at half, and outpaced the Trappers 48-40 in the second to pull away for the double-digit victory.
Solarin led the Trappers with 19 points on 50 percent shooting (7-for-14, 5-for-8 from beyond the arc).
Fejokwu had 14 points and eight boards, including six on the offensive glass.
Uzonwanne added six points and seven rebounds.
May went scoreless on an 0-for-5 shooting night but had three assists, three boards and a steal.
Solarin came off the bench in the team’s first game following the winter break. Erickson said the Trappers started a bigger lineup to match Casper, and that Solarin is fully recovered from a foot injury he suffered in the team’s final game of the fall semester on Dec. 14.
Solarin provided some much-needed scoring against Casper and made his presence felt on the defensive end, Erickson said.
Northwest’s shooting troubles did not affect them at the free throw line, where the Trappers shot 76.5 percent (36-47) across both games.
The Trappers vied for their first home conference win of the season on Wednesday night against Central Wyoming (see story at www.powelltribune.com).