Looking to end a prolonged winless streak, the Northwest College men’s basketball team had its work cut out for them last week; the Trappers dropped a pair of home games to Sheridan and Western Wyoming to end a frustrating regular season with nine straight losses.
Sheridan (28-2 overall, 13-1 in Region IX North) came into a Feb. 20 contest as the No. 6 team in the nation, though if the Trappers (10-20, 3-11) were intimidated by the lofty ranking it didn’t show. Trailing by just three points in the second half, Northwest ran out of steam late as the Generals held on for the 83-72 win.
The Trappers followed that inspired performance with a not-so-inspired one on Saturday against Western Wyoming, falling 87-75 on Military Appreciation Day.
“Coming out of the Sheridan game, the way those guys fought and came back from 22 down, it was just a championship effort,” said NWC head coach Dawud Abdur-Rahkman. “When you have a game like that buttressed up against a game like Western — no disrespect to Western, but they are clearly not Sheridan — two things can possibly happen. You either walk into that game too overconfident, or you walk into that game and say I know what I need to do to win. I thought we did the former. We overlooked them.”
The Trappers will travel to Sheridan Friday to play the Generals a third time for the right to advance to the Region IX Tournament.
“I think our guys believe that they can win that game,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Sometimes when you’re underdogs or you underachieve, you need this type of game. But we match up well against Sheridan, and maybe this will be the game where they pull it off.”
Sheridan 83, Trappers 72
The Sheridan Generals showed why they’re one of the top teams in the nation during the first half of last week’s contest, jumping out to a 22-point lead on the Trappers before spectators could even find their seats.
But showing a resilience that’s been missing from the team of late, Northwest battled back in the second half to pull within three before Sheridan shut the door on the comeback. The Generals won 83-72.
“It may have been the best effort that they’ve given all year; I was proud of that,” Abdur-Rahkman said of his squad’s rally. “Sometimes we get caught up in wins and losses and we forget about the player development. That effort really moved me in that I said, ‘Damn, we’ve really come a long way.’”
The Generals stormed out of the gate, going on a 19-2 run in the game’s first nine minutes. That lead was pushed to 22 at 33-11, but with five minutes left in the first half, NWC settled into a rhythm, paced by 3-pointers from Saheem Anthony and Lagio Grantsaan. The Trappers cut the lead to 13 by the end of the half, trailing 39-26.
Northwest opened the second half on a 3-pointer from Reme Torbert, and the Trappers began to slowly chip away at Sheridan’s lead. Torbert continued to rain down threes, and Darius Webster made his presence felt underneath with a pair of buckets. Calvin Fugett sank a 3-pointer of his own, and with 10 minutes to play in the game, the Trappers trailed 56-53.
That was as close as Northwest would get, however, as Sheridan took advantage of costly turnovers to close out the contest.
Torbert led all scorers with 24 points, including a 4-of-8 performance from behind the arc.
“Reme [Torbert] was back to being Reme; he had a great game,” Abdur-Rahkman said.
Fugett followed with 12 points, while Webster finished with a double-double, netting 11 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Grantsaan finished with eight points, to go along with five rebounds and four assists.
Anthony also had a nice game in an expanded role, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the 3-point line to finish with 12 points. Abdur-Rahkman said it was the best game he’s seen out of Anthony this season, on both ends of the floor.
“Here’s one kid who’s not been playing well, been spotty at best, who has loads of talent, but we just haven’t seen it on the floor,” Abdur-Rahkman said of Anthony. “It may have been one of his best games that he’s played since the break. He played almost 20 minutes and didn’t miss a shot. I told the guys at halftime, ‘Keep giving this kid the ball!’ We got guys who haven’t made a shot yet jacking up threes ... just keep passing him the ball. I was very proud of him, and I told him as much.”
Western Wyoming 87, Trappers 75
The energy and enthusiasm the Trappers exhibited earlier in the week against Sheridan was nowhere to be found Saturday against Western Wyoming (13-15, 8-6), with the Mustangs winning the season finale 87-75.
Abdur-Rahkman said between the emotional loss to Sheridan and the distraction of Military Appreciation Day and Sophomore Night, his team’s focus wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I get it, but I just think it was a combination of a few things that we just couldn’t overcome, as much as we tried,” the coach said. “We just didn’t have it against Western.”
On a day where the team honored its sophomores — Grantsaan, Torbert, Jason Feliz, Fugett, Webster, Anthony, Axel Okongo and Piotr Smigielski — as well as the members of the military in attendance, the team struggled to find its footing.
The teams traded leads in the first half, with the Trappers able to build a seven-point lead late. The Mustangs battled back, however, and tied the game at the break 38-38.
Western retook the lead early in the second half and never relinquished it, running the lead to 15 with just under five minutes to play. The Trappers cut the advantage to seven but could get no closer, as Western held on for the win and avoided the season sweep.
Torbert again led the charge in his final home game as a Trapper, netting 22 points, grabbing nine boards and dishing off seven assists, team-highs in each.
Feliz followed with 19 points, while Grantsaan finished with 18. Anthony chipped in five points, with Webster adding four.