An 11-0 run to start the second half was more than enough for the host Pronghorns to distance themselves from the Trappers, who got away from the type of basketball that sent them into halftime tied 31-31, on the way to a 77-64 win.
“We played so much more selfish that second half,” said NWC head coach Brian Erickson.
The lack of team play hurt Northwest on both ends of the floor as Gillette improved to 16-0 on the season.
“We just didn’t run any offense. Quick shots, not enough passes, not enough movement,” Erickson began. “When they go on that 11-0 run we’re not getting back in transition, just going away from what was working for us well. And in trying to take away their strengths, we did the exact opposite.”
After the Trappers (9-8, 0-2 in Region IX) stopped Gillette’s run, they were outscored by just two the rest of the way.
“It was that kind of back and forth (play). When you get down that much you can’t trade baskets,” Erickson said. “We made some improvements for sure, especially in that first half. But now we have to do it for 40 minutes.”
Joel Muamba led Northwest with 13 points off the bench. The freshman added three rebounds and a steal in what Erickson said was an encouraging performance.
“We talked with him a lot last week and he did an unbelievable job Saturday,” Erickson said. “It’s one of the best (games) I’ve seen him play, of letting the game come to him, and he’s starting to figure it out more and more. So I expect some great things from him this second half.”
Jordon Rood and Levi Londole each scored 11 points for the Trappers while Sukhjot Bains added nine and Garrison Gillard had eight to go with a team-high eight rebounds.
Londole pulled down seven boards while Bains and Grantham Gillard each had six.
Damon Leach scored four points and had five rebounds in the start, and, along with Londole, impressed Erickson with their willingness to grind.
“Damon took charges, he was physical,” the coach said. “Both of them worked their butts off and played really hard.”
Erickson said Northwest’s youth — 10 freshmen and redshirt freshmen — could have contributed to the sputtering start to the second half, though he expects most teams to round into form in mid to late January.
“We need some more leadership out there. I think we panic sometimes,” Erickson said. “You get down, and you think the next shot that you make is a 10-point shot.”
The Trappers still have time, but they can’t wait too long now that Region IX play has begun.
“We were a little bit behind of what we should have been. We’re at that point … it’s now or never. It’s a big, big push, and it’s been a late push,” Erickson said.
Northwest started the new year with a 93-81 home loss to Casper on Jan. 7.
Both the Trappers and T-Birds made 30 field goals, and each shot better than 50 percent from the floor.
Casper grabbed six more total rebounds (38-32) than Northwest, and had 11 on the offensive glass. Casper also attempted 10 more free throws while making 13 more.
Northwest was just 12-for-29 (41.3 percent) from the foul line.
Erickson thought the difference in the Region IX opener wasn’t quantified on the stat sheet.
“We can point right at free throws, we gave up so many offensive rebounds. You can easily point at those things,” he said. “But for me, we played too selfish. We didn’t play together. Those other two things? We can work on those in practice. We can improve our free throw shooting, getting guys there shooting more free throws, boxing out harder. You’re not going to be perfect every night, but that other category of playing together as a team and becoming a better team, that should always be there.”
Grantham and Garrison Gillard scored 18 points apiece, while the former had six rebounds and the latter pulled in five.
Bains scored 11 points and was a rebound shy of a double-double and Muamba added 12 points off the bench.
Casper was led by sophomore guard Gerad Davis, who notched a double-double with 24 points and 14 rebounds, both game highs.
“He was aggressive, went after every rebound. Attacked us, posted us. He just played so hard and physical,” Erickson said. “We didn’t do a good enough job on him. He hurt us, he outworked us.”
Miles City next
The Trappers could even their Region IX record Saturday in Miles City, Montana.
Northwest takes on Miles City Community College at 7:30 p.m. in one of the more difficult road destinations in the conference.
“Every year they’re so tough to beat there. It’s a tough place to play,” Erickson said. “Coach (Chase) Tait has got those guys playing so hard, and they just run their offense, play physical and push you around. Just like any year it’s going to be a battle, and we got to play 40 minutes and compete if we’re going to get out of there with a win.”
The Pioneers are 8-9 this season and 1-1 in Region IX play. They are 4-2 at home and played at Sheridan College Wednesday evening after press time.
The Trappers hosted Little Big Horn (0-11) Wednesday night after press time. Results from that game can be found at facebook.com/powelltribune.
Injured Trappers Jordy Telfort and Dan Milota are both on track to return to the court this season.
Telfort has been out for nearly two months with a knee injury and his return had been in doubt until recently. Now, Erickson said he could miss as few as two more games.
“Jordy, he’s about 90 percent. I think he’ll be back next week,” Erickson said.
Milota’s knee injury, sustained on Dec. 31 at the Treasure Valley Tournament, was revealed to be a torn MCL, though he will not need surgery, according to Erickson.
Milota could be back as soon as late-January, early February. Once cleared to play, Erickson expects Milota to be back in game shape in no time.
“He works so hard. He’s going to be in good shape within a week,” Erickson said. “I walk in there in practice today and he’s sitting there doing push ups and sit ups. He’s a beast.”
It could take a little longer to reacclimate Telfort because he’s missed more time.
“Dan’s run all this stuff (the Trappers’ offense), but Jordy’s kind of been away and not really seen it,” Erickson said. “Getting him up to speed will probably be a little bit more difficult, but we’re going to have a little bit more time with him.”