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November 25, 2008 4:08 am

Trappers stun Williston State, No. 6 NJC

Written by Tribune Staff

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Trapper Jordan Harris (4) launches a shot during Northwest College's Friday matchup with Williston State College during the first night of the First National Bank and Trust Shootout in Powell. Harris finished the two-day tournament with a total of 42 points. Tribune photo by David Dickey

Youth and inexperience led the Northwest College Trappers to a 1-5 record during its first six games this season.

However, it was the coming together as a team and new-found confidence that helped the Trappers plow through a pair of top-notch opponents in the 19th annual First National Bank and Trust Shootout at Hank Cabre Gymnasium in Powell last week.

NWC, a team that boasts a lineup consisting of 11 freshmen and only three sophomores, put its recent, youthful woes behind and looked more like a veteran squad during convincing victories against Williston State College Friday and Northeastern Junior College Saturday. Both teams entered Powell with winning records, but neither was able to topple the Trappers.

“The guys came out and played with a lot of intensity both nights,” said NWC head coach Andy Ward. “That's exactly what we needed to do because we were facing two very talented teams. We had some terrific performances from a lot of guys, and overall it was a pair of great team efforts.”

NWC 87, WSC 79

The Trappers (3-5) opened the two-day tournament against North Dakota's Williston State College and emerged with an eight-point victory. The Tetons, who entered the contest with a 6-2 mark, established a slim 39-38 advantage at halftime. However, NWC took the lead early in the second half on a basket by Mitchell Ackelson following an assist from Casper Hesseldal. NWC extended the lead to as many as five points before WSC regained the advantage at 47-46 on a 3-point basket by Nate Clinton at the 13:49 mark. The Tetons added a 3-pointer from Nathaniel Packineau moments later for a four-point lead.

NWC's Keith Kegerreis then came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer to pull NWC within a point of tying the game only to have the Tetons answer with back-to-back baskets for a 54-49 lead. Kegerreis connected for another 3-pointer, however, to cut the Tetons' advantage to 54-52. Mitchell Ackelson then tied the game at 54 with 11:10 remaining.

From that point, the lead changed hands 10 times before NWC pushed ahead 76-75 on a basket by Hesseldal with 3:43 left on the clock. An ensuing basket by Ackelson lifted NWC to a four-point advantage, but the Tetons continued to battle back and tied the contest at 79 with 1:43 to play on a 2-pointer by Decon Jackson. Twenty seconds later, NWC point guard Julian Olubuyi hit his biggest basket of the game, a 3-pointer, to give put the Trappers ahead 82-79.

WSC failed to score on its next trip down the floor and set the stage for Ackelson to hit a shot under heavy pressure as the shot clock was winding down at the other end. Ackelson's basket, which came with 34.2 seconds left, pushed NWC ahead by five. From that point, WSC's comeback effort fell short as they failed to score again, thanks to a missed shot and a traveling call on back-to-back possessions. NWC, meanwhile, added a free throw from Ackelson and a pair of free throws from Ricardo Bodra to end the scoring at 87-79.

“Williston State has a good basketball team,” Ward said. “They are well coached and they play hard from start to finish. I thought we played very well, and we hit some big shots when we needed them. Julian's 3-pointer with the clock winding down and Mitchell's 2-pointer on the baseline with under a minute to go — both of those were huge baskets for us.”

Overall, nine Trappers scored during the contest. Leading the way for NWC was Ackelson, who finished with a game-high 27 points. Jordan Harris also finished in double figures with 15 points. Other Trappers notching points in the game were Olubuyi (9 points), Bodra (8), Cody Ball (8), Casper Hesseldal (8), Kegerreis (6), Anthony Harris (4) and Malcom Colbert (2). Bodra also finished with a game-high 10 rebounds.

Ward also noted Ackelson's presence on defense throughout the game. The freshman guard from Fort Collins, Colo., drew the assignment of covering WSC's Luke Martinez, and he held the high-scoring freshman to only four points.

“Mitchell played outstanding defense,” Ward said. “He did a good job of shutting down Martinez. Mitchell spent a lot of energy guarding him, yet he was still able to put up 27 points on the offensive end. He had a tremendous all-around game.”

WSC finished with five players in double figures, including Neil Packineau with 16 points and Nathaniel Packineau with 15 points. Charlie Chapman and Devon Jackson added 13 points, and Nate Clinton added 10.

NWC 77, NJC 54

As an encore performance following Friday night's victory over WSC, the Trappers dismantled sixth-ranked Northeastern Junior College from Sterling, Colo., by a 23-point margin.

The Trappers took a commanding lead early and held a 28-5 advantage at the 7:59 mark in the first half following a 3-point basket by Olubuyi.

By halftime, NWC was cruising with a 45-25 lead. The Plainsmen (6-3) did make a run at the Trappers midway through the second half and closed to within five points at 54-49 with 8:32 remaining to play. However, when it looked as if the momentum had turned in favor of NJC, Hesseldal hit a 3-point shot with 7:59 to push NWC ahead by eight. His basket started a 14-0 run. NJC finally got its 51st point with less than two minutes remaining in the game.

“We knew NJC would make a run at us in the second half,” Ward said. “They cut it to five, but the guys answered with an an impressive run of their own. We didn't want them to get that close, but I'm proud of the guys for the way they responded to it. That showed us we could withstand a run from a very good basketball team, and hopefully that will give us even more confidence.”

Like the night before, the Trappers had a number of big-time performances. On Saturday night, it was sophomore Jordan Harris' time to shine in front of the hometown crowd. He finished with 27 points on a 10-of-14 shooting performance. Olubuyi also enjoyed a double-digit scoring performance by finishing with 14 points. Hesseldal also added 14 points. Other Trappers notching points in the victory were Ackelson (8), Bodra (4), Carnell Calhoun (4), Ball (2), Scott Odekirk (2) and Kegerreis (2). Bodra again led the rebounding effort with nine boards. As a team, NWC outrebounded the Plainsmen by a 35-29 margin.

NJC's effort was led by Anthony Harris, who finished with 21 points and eight rebounds. AJ Wilson added 11 points and was the only other NJC player to finish with a double-digit point total.

• Up next: The Trappers, who now have a two-game winning streak to their credit, will attempt to extend it to four when they play in the annual Lions Club Tournament in Sheridan Friday and Saturday. The Trappers are slated to take on Rocky Mountain College's junior varsity and Little Big Horn College. With a pair of victories, NWC can reach the .500 mark, which would be a major boost for the team after enduring a 1-5 start to open the season.

“There's no doubt these two wins at home were big,” Ward said. “Now we have to guard against a letdown. That will be a challenge. We won't be playing at home, and we aren't facing teams like we saw this weekend. But we can't overlook anybody. We have to be able to bring it no matter who we're up against. We can't just show up and play against big-time teams.”

Ward doesn't want to let the momentum gained from last weekend get away, and he's determined to help his team continue its recent improvements. In addition to consistent play last weekend, the Trappers continued to take better care of the basketball. NWC suffered only 12 turnovers against WSC and 13 against NJC. On the flip side, the Trappers helped cause a combined 41 turnovers by the Tetons and Plainsmen.

“We've got to keep it going in our favor,” Ward said. “When you get two good victories like these, you have to build on them and use them in your favor. Hopefully, we'll be able to do that in the Lions Club Tournament.”