Record now 4-1 with wins against Williston State, Game Gear
The Northwest College men’s basketball team continued its winning ways over the weekend, taking down Williston State and Game Gear at the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout at Cabre Gym.
The Trappers opened the tournament with a 97-85 win against a scrappy Williston State squad, and rounded out the weekend with a 111-82 dismantling of Game Gear Saturday afternoon.
“I’m happy with the weekend,” said Trappers head coach Brian Erickson. “I’m happy we got two wins, for sure. But I don’t want our guys to be complacent with where we are.”
Trappers 97, Williston State 85
Coach Erickson’s mantra to his team has been that basketball is a game of runs, and Friday night’s game against Williston State was exactly that. The Trappers never trailed, but every time it appeared the game was out of reach, the Tetons made it interesting.
The Trappers jumped out to a quick lead, controlling every aspect of the game for most of the opening half. NWC led 48-33 at the half, but Williston was gaining momentum.
“Against a good team like that, a double-digit lead doesn’t matter,” Erickson said. “They scored 10 points in 35 seconds at one point. We’ve got to get better at putting teams away.”
The Tetons out-scored the Trappers 52-49 in the second half behind a game-high 28 points from Darrell Riley.
“Williston was resilient,” Erickson said. “They were a little short-handed, a kid got hurt, but they fought right back.”
The Trappers’ outside shooting and tenacious play in the paint proved more than Williston could handle, however, as NWC held on for a 97-85 win.
“There were some little mistakes here and there, but overall, I thought we did a good job,” Erickson said. “Game management, especially at the end, we gotta put a bigger emphasis on it. I take some of that blame, but this is stuff we practice, and the guys understand we just gotta do it.”
Lagio Grantsaan led the way for the Trappers with his third double-double in four games, netting 20 points to go with 11 rebounds. In all, five Trappers finished in double-digits; three of those players came off the bench. Sophomore Luc Lombardy scored 19 points, including five 3-pointers, and grabbed four boards.
Blake Hinze and Calvin Fugett finished with 14 points apiece. Laukan Taufa recorded his first double-double of the season, scoring 13 points and pulling down 10 rebounds, eight on the defensive end of the floor. Fugett particularly impressed the coach.
“He controlled our team pretty well, pushed it when he needed to. He found guys when he needed to,” Erickson said. With 14 points, six rebounds five assists and five steals, “to have just one turnover and have those numbers is exactly what we need from him,” the coach said.
Reme Torbert and Umar Jalloh rounded out the scoring for the Trappers with seven and six points, respectively.
Erickson said he was pleased with his team’s performance under the basket while time management and free throws will be immediately addressed. For the game, the Trappers were just .500 from the charity stripe, while the Tetons finished at 67 percent.
“No matter what, you knock down free throws and the game is over,” Erickson said. “I told the guys I was not very happy with how we finished, and those are things we need to work on if we’re going to be a great team.”
That said, Erickson sees a lot of things to continue to build on.
“Right now, I think we’re a pretty good team,” he said. “They did a lot of good things, and I’m proud of them. It was a really good win.”
Trappers 111, Game Gear 82
Saturday’s game against Game Gear was supposed to be an easy test: a team of fit college players against an all-star team of former greats — most of whom were on the wrong side of 30.
But someone forgot to tell the old guys.
“Every year, those guys come out and give us a little fight,” Erickson said. “The score at the end, you expect that, but you expect it to happen a little bit earlier. We let them hang around too long. I don’t think we came ready to play.”
Paced by former Trapper Spencer Trask’s double-double, Game Gear jumped out to a quick lead, and was aggressive against their younger counterparts. The all-stars led most of the first half, relinquishing the lead only a few minutes before the break. Trask finished with 12 points and 14 boards. Game Gear’s Nick Meza led all scorers with 21 points, including six baskets from behind the arc.
“They’re tough games to play in, to get pumped up for,” Erickson said. “But I just told the guys that, ‘Hey, we could be practicing right now, we could be running, doing things that might not be as fun as a game ...’”
Erickson said he wasn’t surprised at the physicality of the Game Gear squad, but his players may have been.
“These guys know how to play,” the coach said. “It’s old man basketball. When you can’t rely on your athletic ability, you tend to play disciplined basketball, not trying to do too much. I told my guys we could learn a lot from them in terms of being patient and disciplined.”
The Trappers stepped up their intensity in the second half, led by 19-point efforts by Umar Jalloh and Laukan Taufa.
“We were successful, but we could have been better,” Jalloh said. “We made a lot of shots, but we missed a lot of shots. I don’t think anyone on this team is selfish, so I think that will be a good aspect of this team moving forward. We just need to run the floor harder.”
Six Trappers finished in double-digits, and every player on the roster spent time on the floor. With everyone on the same page, NWC cruised to a 111-82 victory.
“Once we got the intensity back, it was a different game,” Erickson said. “We didn’t have that in the first half; Jace Johnson was probably the only one. I think he changed the mood of our team, and I told him after, ‘If we win this game, it’s because of you.’”
Johnson finished with 11 points, two boards and two steals, including knocking down some shots to start the second half.
“We started pressing them and just wore them down,” Erickson said. “[Nick] Meza hit six 3s in that second half for them, but the pressure we put on them was just too much.”
Also seeing more playing time for the Trappers was big man Axel Okongo. Okongo had returned to his native France for a family emergency, arriving back in Powell just last week; Erickson said he’s easing Okongo into the offense as he gets back into game shape. The 7-footer finished with six points in 12 minutes on the floor, including a put-back dunk that had the crowd on its feet.
“He has to get more experience running the offense, try to stay out of foul trouble,” Erickson said. “He’s just so big and takes up a lot of space that he’s got a chance to be pretty good for us.”
Grantsaan, Fugett and Jordan Banks rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Trappers, finishing with 10 points apiece. Fugett also dished out seven assists and pulled down four boards in the winning effort.
The Trappers finished with 14 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Game Gear 44-38. NWC shot 74 percent on free throws, 44 percent on 3-point shots and 49 percent from the field, compared to Game Gear’s 71 percent on free throws, 38 percent on 3-point shots and 39 percent from the field.
“You can’t complain of getting wins,” Erickson said, though he added that the team will work to improve.
The Trappers are on the road this weekend, traveling to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, for the North Idaho Classic. NWC will play Thursday against Fairchild Air Force Base, Friday against North Idaho College and Saturday against Gonzaga Prep.