The Trappers (15-6, 6-1 in conference) beat Little Big Horn (8-12, 1-6) 84-55 in Crow Agency, Mont., Saturday for the second win in four days and remained tied with the Mustangs atop the Region IX North standings.
The Little Big Horn Rams may be in last place in the North, but head coach Janis Beal said “in our region this year, any win is good.”
Especially on the road. Northwest is 8-0 at home this season, but just above .500 on the road at 7-6.
“It’s a different environment to play in, so I was pleased the girls came out and got a W and took care of business,” Beal said.
Imari Simpson was the Trappers’ leading scorer with 13 points, marking the third straight time the sophomore has reached double figures. Simpson also grabbed six rebounds before she fouled out late in the second half.
Leanne Winterholler took advantage of open looks on her way to 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. It was a return to form for the sophomore guard, who had been 4-of-23 from beyond the arc in Northwest’s previous three January games.
“She knocked one down early in the game, so that was good to see,” Beal said. “She got some open looks, which she hasn’t had for a while, so it was good to see her knock those down.”
Simpson and Winterholler were the only starters to score in double figures. The rest of the starting five combined for 16 points.
Beal said the bench was key in picking up the pace on a day the starters looked sluggish in the early going.
“I felt like we came out a little bit flat to begin the game,” Beal said. “And that second unit of kids went in and brought the energy.”
The Trapper bench was led by Caitlin Clancy, who scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 18 minutes. Clancy was 6-of-7 from the foul line, which accounted for half of her points.
“She did a good job being aggressive and going to the hoop,” Beal said.
Clancy’s eight boards were her second-best rebounding performance this season.
“She definitely has that ability,” Beal said. “She’s very athletic.”
Sarah Nielsen added 10 points on an all-around good shooting night. The freshman was 3-for-6 from the field and hit all four of her free throws.
Freshman Mandee Christensen came off the bench and was second for the Trappers with seven rebounds. The 5-7 guard was just one shy of her season-high of eight rebounds.
“She did a good job being aggressive on defense,” Beal said. “Little Big Horn is not real big, so it allowed for some of our smaller kids to go in and get some rebounds.”
Starting point guard and 5-6 sophomore Andressa Augusto had five rebounds to go with four points and two assists.
Freshman Hatti Snyder netted eight points and three rebounds and freshman Dana Bjorhus scored four points to go with her six rebounds.
Bjorhus, a 5-8 wing, has now recorded at least six rebounds in four of Northwest’s past five games, but has been held to six total points in the past two contests.
Beal said teams are wising up to Bjorhus’s scoring prowess and are making her a defensive priority.
“Other teams are trying to force someone else to score,” the coach said. “Dana will get hers. She’ll take advantage of any open shot she gets but she won’t force anything either.”
Beal said the attention Bjorhus draws from defenses will help open up the floor for other NWC scorers.
Overall the Trappers shot just 41.2 percent from the floor but 85 percent from the foul line, where they were 18-of-22.
The Rams were led by Alonia Clay’s 12 points and four rebounds. Violet Birdinground had 11 points and four rebounds and Kandace Carroll added nine points and three boards. As a team, Little Big Horn made just 25 percent of its field goals.
Northwest out-rebounded the Rams 51-32 but turned the ball over 16 times to Little Big Horn’s 11.
Beal said ball security is an area in which the Trappers must improve, especially if they’re going to battle Western Wyoming for a division title.
Northwest traveled to Rock Springs Wednesday night for a match-up with the Mustangs.
“We’ve had a bit of a struggle the past few games with giving up too many turnovers,” Beal said. “Against a great team which (the Mustangs) are, you have to limit the extra possessions you give them.”
Northwest and Western Wyoming appear to be evenly matched, both on paper and on film.
Each team has played seven conference games so far this season, with very similar results. Besides posting identical 6-1 records, only 13 points separate the Mustangs and Trappers in total points differential. Western Wyoming has scored 500 points and allowed 422. Northwest, meanwhile, has scored 489 points and given up 424.
Beal said the Mustangs can score inside and out and will throw multiple defensive looks at the Trapper offense.
Ultimately, Beal said the game will come down to the finer details. The coach believes the team that gives the extra effort, gets to the loose balls and executes on their possessions likely will leave the gym as the North’s team to beat.
The team will be back in Powell on Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against Dawson (12-5, 4-3), which the Trappers beat 64-56 on Dec. 10 in Glendive, Mont.
“I think they’re much improved from when we saw then in December,” Beal said.
Dawson is coming off a three-point loss at Western Wyoming on Jan. 17, but won three of its past four prior to that.