During that frigid shooting stretch, the Trappers built a 30-20 lead and looked destined to carry a comfortable lead into the halftime locker. With less than 90 seconds remaining in the half, Casper switched into a full court press and the tone of the game abruptly changed.
Northwest turned the ball over on its final three possessions of the first half, enabling Casper to score seven quick points and trail by only three at inermission. The Trappers’ troubles handling the press continued in the second half. Casper scored eight of the first 10 points and held Northwest without a bucket from the floor for more than seven minutes to begin the second half.
Included in that stretch was a lengthy stoppage in play due to injury. With 13:46 remaining in the contest, Casper freshman Kaylin Evans broke his leg while challenging a shot at the defensive end of the floor. The injury prompted officials to send both teams back to their respective locker rooms and delayed play for more than half an hour.
Once action resumed, Casper continued to carry the momentum.
“We knew they’d probably come out hard and rally around him,” Ward said of the action after Evans’ injury. “The entire difference to the game was we just could not set up to handle their press. We didn’t move the ball well. We didn’t space ourselves on the floor where we needed, and we talked about it during halftime and again when we went to the locker room during the injury time out.”
The T-birds outscored Northwest 16-6 following Evans’ injury to push their lead into double figures for the first time all night. Northwest never got closer than eight points the rest of the way, in large part due to the team’s inability to consistently get the ball into a half-court set against Casper’s press.
The Trappers finished the game with 31 turnovers.
“You’re not going to win a lot if you give it away that many times,” said Ward. “That was the difference.”
Curtis Trotter, held out of action for disciplinary reasons until the second half, was the only Trapper to reach double figures. Trotter finished with 11 points in just over 13 minutes of action. Ty Ackelson added nine points in support for NWC.
Saturday’s struggles negated some of the momentum the Trappers had amassed 24 hours earlier. The team began its weeked with an 89-83 victory over Gillette in a rematch of a first-round Region IX tournament game from last season.
William Walker had a monster night for the Trappers in the victory, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds as he overpowered Gillette in the paint.
“He had a tremendous game,” Ward said. “He really stepped up and Gillette didn’t have an answer for him inside.”
Corey Clement added 19 points and seven rebounds in a performance that also drew praise from the Trappers’ head coach. Diego Pasos and Tevin Rumley each proke double figures with 10 points apiece.
The Trappers shot almost 54 percent from the floor in that contest.
The weekend split makes Northwest’s record 6-4 entering the holiday break. The Trappers are off until a Jan. 3-4 trip to Yuma, Ari., to compete in the Arizona Western tournament. The Trappers’ next home game will be Jan. 7 against Western Wyoming.
Northwest 89, Gillette 83
Reader 9, Pasos 0, Osayande 2, Rumley 10, Ackelson 5, Crandall 9, Clement 19, Walker 25.
Casper 70, Northwest 59
Ackelson 9, Crandall 2, Reader 6, Clement 7, Pasos 2, Osayade 2, Tucker 4, Walker 2, Rumley 8, Trotter 11, Robinson 6.