Months of hard work paid off for the Northwest College women’s basketball team, which gained an extra week to prepare for the Region IX tournament this weekend in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where …
Months of hard work paid off for the Northwest College women’s basketball team, which gained an extra week to prepare for the Region IX tournament this weekend in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where the Trappers will open play against Trinidad at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“We just really tried to spend some time in the weight room, and getting our bodies prepared for the tournament,” coach Lauren Davis said. “We also focused on things we are good at and tried to perfect them, and then [focused] on the things that we need to work on going into the tournament … no matter who we play we need to be sharp defensively.”
Northwest (20-9) heads in as the No. 2 seed out of Region IX North after finishing 7-2 in conference play, while Trinidad (12-16) is the No. 3 seed out of Region IX South — finishing 5-5 in conference play and advancing after a 68-62 victory against Lamar on Friday.
The Trojans come in with a 6-4 record in their last 10 contests and winners of two straight, while the Trappers have gone 7-3 and are winners of four straight heading into the postseason.
Both teams head into the contest with three players averaging double digit scorers.
Leading the way for the Trappers is Darla Hernandez, a sophomore from Worland who leads Northwest in points per game at 16.2 and rebounds at 7.5 per game.
“I would say that I have stepped up as a leader through my actions more than words,” Hernandez said. “I knew that for the freshmen coming in, I had to do the right things day in and day out to set the standard.”
She returned to the Trappers as one of only two sophomores from last year’s team, helping Northwest increase its win total in the second year under Davis while improving tournament seeding after falling short last season.
Returning alongside Hernandez was Nayeli Acosta, who Hernandez said has helped her in her time at Northwest as one of her closest friends.
“Nayeli was one of my closest friends last year and it carried into this year. I love being around her on and off the court,” Hernandez said. “I think that we play well with each other — our friendship is something that will carry on beyond Northwest.”
She said one of the most important things she has learned over this two-year period has been the importance of mentality, realizing that 90% of being an athlete is mental.
“Mentality is so important in everything you do, not just sports,” Hernandez said. “In life, much like the game of basketball, there will be ups and downs, but if you can keep a positive mindset you will come out on top.”
Just behind Hernandez in scoring is a pair of freshmen in Roxanne Rogers (13.6) and Jimena Montoro Cabezas (10.4), while Acosta is the fourth leading scorer (9.4) and leads the team in assists at 2.9 per game.
The two teams score at a similar rate, with Trinidad holding the slimmest of margins averaging 71.1 per game while Northwest averages 71 a night.
The difference between the two teams comes on the defensive side of the ball, where Trinidad gives up 75.6 per game while Northwest holds opponents to 64.6 per game.
“[The] keys will be slowing them down in transition and keeping them off the glass,” Davis said. “I think our girls are ready for this and ready for the moment. The tournament has been our goal from day one, and I think having Darla and Nayeli reiterating that we are capable and deserving of being there will go a long way.”
Northwest made the trip to Scottsbluff on Tuesday, and Davis was thankful for the support the Trappers received from Powell Middle School, Westside Elementary and Parkside Elementary before getting on the road.
The quarterfinal matchup between the Trappers and Trojans will be streamed on the Western Nebraska YouTube page.