The Trappers are now on a three-game win streak, with two games left on the schedule before the winter break.
Trappers 81, DCC 67
Dawson Community College came into Friday’s game against NWC sporting a gaudy 10-1 record and riding a seven-game winning streak. With quality wins against Miles Community College and Colorado Northwestern and a close loss to nationally ranked Gillette College on their resume, Trappers head coach Brian Erickson knew his team was in for a battle.
“Dawson’s tough,” Erickson said. “I think they’re a talented bunch, and they play really, really hard. They have some really good shooters.”
After spotting the Buccaneers the first four points of the contest, the Trappers went on a 19-4 run, sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers by Lagio Grantsaan and Jace Johnson. NWC never trailed again, coming away with a 81-67 win.
“I think a big difference was energy and effort — things we’ve been kind of talking about, preaching to them all year,” Erickson said. “We’re a team of ups and downs, and when we get it, I think we have a chance. And I think they kind of showed it tonight.”
NWC took a 47-28 lead into the half. Dawson made it a contest in the second half, cutting the lead to 66-60, but NWC regrouped and outscored the Bucs 15-7 to close out the game.
“It was a really good win for us,” Erickson said. “They cut it close. A lot of it was just early shots, too many 3-pointers.”
The Trappers tried eight 3s in the first half and shot well; they tried 13 more in the second half “and couldn’t make one,” the coach said.
Erickson said his squad made better rotations on defense, better passes and moved the ball around more. The Bucs were a physical team, and Erickson thought his team matched that intensity.
“The big key for us was to outwork them,” the coach explained. “We had that written in our scouting report. The reason is they just play so hard, they have a talented, athletic group.”
The Trappers finished with four players scoring in double-digits, led by Umar Jalloh with 18. Reme Torbert followed with 15 points, and Calvin Fugett and Blake Hinze added 12 points apiece. Fugett also had a game-high eight assists, while Hinze led the team in rebounds with eight. Erickson said he was also impressed with the play of big man Axel Okongo, who added six points and continues to increase his minutes with each game.
“Umar played great, and Calvin played great; Reme and Blake played great. But I think Axel was the difference-maker,” the coach said.
When Dawson cut the Trappers’ lead to six points, Erickson said his assistant coaches told him to put Okongo back in the game. The move was just the momentum-changer NWC needed.
“We put him back in, and the next thing you know, we win by 16,” Erickson said. “We got the ball down to him, and he finished. If they drove, he had a hand up and forced them to shoot over him. I think honestly he was the player of the game for us. He stepped up big time and I was proud of him.”
The Trappers finished with seven 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Dawson 42-30. NWC’s woes at the charity stripe continued, as the Trappers finished a dismal 43 percent on free throws, compared to 72 percent for the Bucs. NWC shot 33 percent on 3-point attempts and 49 percent from the field, compared to Dawson’s 38 percent on 3-point shots and 56 percent from the field.
Trappers 70, Rocky Mountain JV 49
Saturday’s opponent for the Trappers was a familiar one, as NWC squared off with Rocky Mountain JV for the second time in three games. The result of this contest mirrored the first, with the Trappers cruising to a 70-49 win.
The game was not without a little drama, however, as Erickson was called for his first technical on the season.
“I’m riding the referees a little more this season, getting after them a little more,” he said. “The biggest thing is just trying to get our guys’ energy up. Showing emotion as a coach can be a good thing.”
The game gave Erickson the opportunity to give all his players court time, and the bench responded, accounting for 27 points on the win. Rocky Mountain came to play, however, and the Trappers led by just nine points at the half, 36-27. The Trappers wore the smaller team down in the second half.
“Our defense was pretty good,” Erickson said, adding, “We still can clean up plenty of things. We rebounded the ball really, really well on both days, so I think that set us apart.”
Despite the win, Erickson said the team took a small step back offensively against Rocky, especially in terms of execution.
“I think we played a little bit too selfish,” he explained. “I told them at halftime that I was surprised there was air left in the ball, just too many dribbles. If you’re going to drive it, great, but we gotta be moving the ball better. We’re making steps, we did a little better in the second half. But we gotta keep moving the ball, more ball movement, more player movement.”
Coming off a 1-4 stretch heading into the weekend, Erickson said he was pleased to see the team’s energy level in both games.
“The effort was there in both games, we just have to work on execution,” Erickson said. “I think our defense saved us, more than anything.”
The opportunity to give his bench players significant minutes on the court was also important, especially with conference play beginning right after the holiday break.
“We have a few guys who don’t get a ton of time,” Erickson said. “Every one of those guys played good minutes. A few guys were in their 20s [as far as minutes], but most of the guys were in that 11-12 minute range. As you get into region, you’re not going to have opportunities to do that, so giving some other guys experience was good.”
The Trappers were led on the scoresheet by Fugett with 14 points, followed by Torbert with 11. The rest of the scoring was distributed pretty evenly, with Jordan Banks finishing with nine points, Lagio Grantsaan with eight points and seven boards and Laukan Taufa with seven points.
Luc Lombardy, Chandler Ramos and Umar Jalloh scored four points apiece.
“I thought Calvin did some good things with the ball, he’s just got to get rid of it a little bit more,” Erickson said. “I thought Jordan played pretty well on both ends — really physical. I thought Reme was really after it on defense, and so was Jace [Johnson].”
Erickson started the second half with Fugett, Torbert, Johnson, Hinze and Banks.
“They can do some diffrent things offensively. I think they really sparked us compared to the first half,” the coach said. “We had some luck with some smaller lineups tonight.”
The Trappers are on the road this week, with games against Williston State on Thursday and Dawson Community College on Friday. They will round out the weekend with a game Saturday against Nueta Hidatsa Sahnich College in Glendive, Montana, the final game before the winter break.
Erickson said the Trappers will work on improving their game — flashes of which were evident last weekend.
“We need to control the chaos,” he said. “Sometimes the effort is there, but it’s a little chaotic. We need to focus on what we do well. I love that we put pressure on teams on the full court, but as we get into the half court, we gotta be able to stick to our defense and communicate. Communication is big.”