Region IX tourney opens this weekend

Posted 3/4/10

Neither of those wins was particularly comfortable.

“They have an outstanding player in Dejuan Wright,” Ward said. “He's an athletic wing who is very tough to stay in front of. He's hard to match up against because if you put a …

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Region IX tourney opens this weekend


Trappers travel to Sheridan; Sterling, Colorado Everyone has heard the basketball adage that it's difficult to beat the same team three times in the same season. Northwest College men's basketball coach Andy Ward is hopeful his team is up to that challenge. The Trapper men, 24-6 and back among the teams receiving votes in the latest NJCAA men's basketball poll, open Region IX tournament play at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Sheridan against Gillette, a team it owns 91-82 and 92-85 victories over in the regular season.

Neither of those wins was particularly comfortable.

“They have an outstanding player in Dejuan Wright,” Ward said. “He's an athletic wing who is very tough to stay in front of. He's hard to match up against because if you put a smaller guy on him, he's tall enough that he'll just shoot over you and taller defenders have trouble stopping his drive because of his quickness.”

Those character traits helped Wright post a line of 24 points and 13 rebounds against the Trappers when the two teams met in Powell just two weeks ago.

“The big challenge for us will be trying to stop their penetration,” Ward said of the game.

The Trappers will counter with a lineup that has shot 57 percent for the season against Gillette. Northwest has also found its way to the free-throw line against the Pronghorns an average of 39 times in each of the two games.

“A lot of that has to do with both teams liking to get out in the open floor and running,” Ward said of the lofty shooting percentage. “Any time you do that, the percentages are going to climb.”

Northwest will be led into the game by freshmen Alfonzo Hubbard (19.7 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game) and Demetrice Jacobs (16.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 3.5 assists per game, 3.0 steals per game), as well as sophomore Casper Hesseldal (14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg). Freshman Valdez Green and sophomore Mitch Ackelson also contribute better than nine points per contest on average.

Ricardo Andreotti leads the team with seven rebounds per contest.

The Trapper men will enter tournament play a little hobbled, however. Amen Osayande suffered an ankle sprain at Sheridan and, according to Ward, the prognosis is not good for the weekend.

“We're going to the doctor today, but unless we get some good news, I'm not too optimistic about him being able to play in the tournament,” Ward said. “That hurts us because it impacts our depth.”

The Trappers are also hoping for good news on Ackelson. The sophomore was injured late in NWC's win over Casper and has not practiced yet this week.

“He's going to try (Wednesday),” Ward said. “We'll see how it goes. I expect him to play in the tournament, but I don't think he'll be at 100 percent. Obviously, he's a crucial piece of our team.”

For the Northwest College women, the injury prognosis is better, but the challenge may be larger as first-year head coach Janis Beal steers the 11-18 Trapper women against Northeast Nebraska.

Whereas the men are looking for a magical third victory against a team they have already faced, Beal's squad will be opening tournament play against a team it hasn't even seen this season.

“I think it's kind of fun to play someone you haven't seen previously,” said Beal. “It allows you to really focus on doing what you do well and not worrying about what they might do or how they defended you the last time or anything. Those games are fun to play.”

Northeast enters the game 21-9 this season. While the team's roster features size, Beal notes she doesn't expect the team to be as physical in the paint as some of the Trappers' opponents this season.

“They have size, but some of their taller kids play on the perimeter,” Beal said, noting Northeast's leading scorer is a 6-foot-1 wing. “I think they'll run with us.”

The Trapper women open tournament play in Sterling, Colo., at 7 p.m., Saturday.

Northwest will be led into that game by freshman Megan Smith and her 13.8 points per game average. Megan Goodman and Laura Purina also average in double digits for the Trappers, both contributing slightly more than 11 points per contest. Katie Oliverson leads the way with 5.8 rebounds per game while Alicia Valentine, shifted into the starting rotation midway through the season, has responded to dish out an average of 3.6 assists per game.

The Trappers carry one of the nation's top free-throw shooting percentages — 73.3 percent — into the tournament.

“We'll be coming in as the underdog to every game,” said Beal. “We have to focus on what we do and take care of what we need to. If you don't win today, you can't play tomorrow.”

As of press time, officials from Northwest College were working on plans to televise all NWC men's basketball games in Sheridan on NWC-TV, but final details had not been set yet. Coverage of both the men's and women's Region IX games will be posted to the Powell Tribune's blog.