Northwest ousted in first round of Region IX Tournament
The offense worked for shots. The defense earned its stops. But the Northwest College women’s basketball team wouldn’t take what came for free.
The Trappers’ season came to an end after they missed 14 of their 22 free throws in a 63-57 loss to Otero at the Region IX Tournament in Gillette on March 2.
“We did everything we could to win, except knock down free throws,” NWC head coach Janis Beal said. “Part of the game plan is knowing we have to get to the free throw line, we’ve got to attack them. When you miss 14 of them and you lose by six, it’s never going to work out for your favor.”
Sophomore Kealani Sagapolu added a final double-double — her 16th of the season — with 14 points, 20 rebounds and three blocks in her final game in a Northwest uniform.
Sophomore Chandler Rose had 12 points and four boards and freshman Jacey Shaw scored 11 points to go with two rebounds and two assists.
Northwest came out hot with a 44.4 field goal percentage in the first half, but cooled off with a 32.1 FG percentage in the final 20 minutes. The Rattlers shot just 39.1 percent for the game, however, and both teams were within two rebounds and two turnovers of each other.
“Ultimately, that game comes down to free throws,” Beal said.
The 36.4 percent mark from the stripe was a team effort.
All six Trappers who attempted a free throw — Sagapolu (4-for-10), freshman Maddy Johnson (2-for-4), freshman Kennedy Netto (1-for-3), Rose (1-for-2), sophomore Shelby Nicholson (0-for-2) and freshman Jacey Shaw (0-for-1) — shot 50 percent or less.
“For whatever reason, with this team, free-throw misses are contagious,” Beal said. “When the first couple make them, it seems like we shoot a great percentage. When we missed a few early (against Otero) it got into their mind that we’re missing free throws … which resulted in more misses.”
An eight-point third quarter put Northwest in a 10-point hole heading into the final frame.
“You go in and you take a break, and you have to be able to get yourself in that mindset of being amped up again,” Beal said. “That’s one thing we’ve struggled (with), we’ve had our third-quarter struggles this season.”
Down 51-41 in between the third and fourth quarters, the Trappers regained the intensity they lacked while the Rattlers outscored them 16-8 out of halftime.
“A 10-point game is doable, we just have to chip away at it. They came out with a lot of energy and excitement,” Beal said.
Northwest took a brief lead with an 11-2 run to open the fourth quarter before Otero scored seven straight to reclaim a 60-52 advantage.
A reverse layup by Rose and a 3-pointer from the top of the key by Shaw pulled NWC within four, at 61-57, but the Trappers couldn’t capitalize on their final possessions following intentional fouls.
Four Rattlers scored in double figures, including sophomore Madeline Jaquart, who led all scorers with 21 points on 10-for-17 shooting and was second on Otero with 10 rebounds.
Jaquart’s outburst offset Northwest’s containment of Otero’s Macy Myers. The sophomore guard entered the tournament with a 19.9 points per game average.
“We were going to make them score in a different way than what they’re used to,” Beal said. “And to their credit they did a good job of that. We tried to take away their main offensive threat and other kids stepped up.”
Myers was 4-for-20 from the floor, including just 2-for-11 from the 3-point line. Beal said the Trappers contested Myers’ shots by switching defenders on screens.
“Any time they set a screen, someone was flying at her. And she was frustrated,” Beal said. “She was still shooting them, but she had people flying at her the whole time. The girls did a great job on her.”
The Trappers started the game in the same fashion they began the fourth quarter, and the quick pace of the first half led to 68 total points. The teams combined for just 53 points in the second half.
“Everybody was just kind of amped that first quarter, and I think in the second quarter everybody just kind of slowed down a little bit, kind of got into the game,” Beal said. “It started going a little bit more inside — for us Kealani and then for them Jaquart.”
Three-pointers from Shaw (two), Rose and sophomore Shelby Nicholson helped Northwest open a 21-14 lead with two minutes to play in the first.
Back-to-back threes by Otero, sandwiched around two missed free throws by Sagapolu, pulled the Rattlers back to 21-20 at the end of the first.
A back injury briefly sidelined Sagapolu in the second quarter after she was pushed from behind while tracking down a loose ball. She returned after stretching and ensuring the NWC coaching staff she was good to go.
“She’s such a force inside for us rebounding, if she says she’s good, we have to go with it,” Beal said.
Sagapolu exited the game intermittently to stretch, and suffered with pains down her leg throughout the rest of the game.
Otero was up 28-23 when Sagapolu re-entered the game, though Beal said the Rattlers didn’t target her absence.
Northwest went on a 10-4 run to retake a 33-32 lead.
Shaw scored on a baseline layup but missed her free throw and opportunity for a three-point play. The Trappers tied the game at 30-30 when Sagapolu grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds led to two free throws, and a reverse layup by Rose put the Trappers up 32-30.
Northwest was seconds away from taking a 33-32 lead into the locker room but a last-second 3-pointer put Otero up 35-33 at the break.
Sagapolu and Rose earned postseason honors as voted on by Region IX’s coaches.
Sagapolu was named to the All-Region team and Rose made the All-Defense team.
Sagapolu and Rose were part of a seven-person sophomore class that leaves Northwest with just four potential returners in 2016-17. Larissa Knight, Whitney Hatch, Aubree Porter and Nicholson are all sophomores, while Kennedy Netto is a redshirt sophomore who could choose to return for a third year at NWC.
“They represented our team really well, on and off the court,” Beal said of her sophomore class. “Granted, I wish we could have gotten a few more wins for them. But hopefully through the experience they’ve learned some things they can take throughout the rest of life.”
Sagapolu averaged a double-double with 14.7 ppg and 11.6 rpg for the Trappers. She made 53 percent of her shots on more than 10 field goal attempts per game. She was also the only Trapper to average a block per game, with 1.2.
Rose led the Trappers with 1.3 steals per game and was second with 0.6 blocks per game. Offensively, Rose was third on NWC with 10.2 ppg and was third with 4.8 rpg.