The first two times the Northwest College women’s basketball team faced Williston State this season, the young and inexperienced Lady Trappers were still getting to know each other, losing both …
The first two times the Northwest College women’s basketball team faced Williston State this season, the young and inexperienced Lady Trappers were still getting to know each other, losing both contests by double-digit margins.
Fast-forward six weeks, and the NWC squad that welcomed in the Lady Tetons for the third and final matchup looked like a team that had been playing together for years. In perhaps their strongest effort of the season, the Lady Trappers (2-13) took Williston State (6-20) down to the wire, in a game that featured 13 ties and 15 lead changes. Down by a point with just seconds to play, NWC freshman Selena Cudney’s shot to win the game rimmed out, allowing the Lady Tetons to escape with a 73-72 win.
“That was an exciting game, though obviously not how we wanted to end it,” said NWC head coach Camden Levett.
Both teams “have kinda been struggling this season, so it was a good matchup for both of us,” Levett said. “Last time we played these girls in Sheridan, we scored 35 points. Scoring 72 and losing, that stings a bit, but it shows we shot the ball a lot better than we have been.”
The two teams were evenly matched from the start, with neither able to make a significant run. Knotted at 14-14 after the first quarter, both teams continued to trade leads until late in the second quarter. With under two minutes to play in the first half and NWC trailing 29-28, Cudney hit four straight free throws to give the Lady Trappers a three-point advantage. With field goals by Melissa Martinez and Cudney and a free throw by Jenna Lohrenz, NWC went into the locker room with a 37-33 halftime lead.
“With two weeks off, you never really know how your kids are going to come back, what kind of shape they’re going to be in,” Levett said. “But they came back ready to improve, ready to tackle 2019, and they proved it in the first half.”
NWC opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Tayla Sayer and a basket by Cudney to open up a nine-point lead at 42-33. Williston State was able to battle back, however, retaking the lead at the start of the fourth quarter 51-50. The Lady Trappers answered with a 14-8 run, led by 3-pointers by Tess Henry and Martinez.
With a 1:08 left on the clock, the Lady Tetons tied the game for the 13th time at 70-70. After a basket and a free throw by Williston State, NWC’s Berkely Larsen scored with 11 seconds left to cut Williston’s lead to a point, 73-72. Williston’s Jordan Kulczyk turned the ball over, but Cudney’s shot at the buzzer wouldn’t fall, giving the Lady Tetons the win.
Despite the tough loss, the Lady Trappers agreed it was the best the team has played.
“I think in the end the game came down to free throws,” Sayer said, calling it “one of our best team games.”
We still need to get better,” she said, “but we are moving in the right direction.”
“That was probably the best we’ve played as a team so far,” she said.
The Lady Trappers had three players finish in double digits, led by a 17-point, 12-rebound double-double by Cudney. Henry netted 14 points, while Larsen finished with 13 points to go along with five rebounds.
“Our post players did a really good job ... They were fantastic,” Levett said. “Our game plan tonight was to feed the posts, and that’s a collective effort. Our guards did a good job feeding the posts on the inside, and Berkley [Larsen] and Selena [Cudney] responded well.”
Kaylee Brown netted seven points and Juliana Ribeiro chipped in six to round out NWC’s top five scorers.
“I was really proud of how the team came back after the break, that was our strongest game so far,” Brown said. “Now we’ve just got to go back to work, and get ready for conference.”
Shali Sheridan led the way for the Lady Tetons, scoring 17 points, dishing off six assists and finishing with four steals. Abigayle Deubner followed with 13 points, Akilah Stewart with 12 and Taylor Kappel with 11.
As a team, the Lady Trappers shot 40 percent from the floor, though only hit on five of 20 3-pointers. Free throws were also an issue, as NWC shot a dismal 41 percent from the charity stripe in the second half.
“The difference in the game was free throws,” Levett said. “We were 80 percent at halftime, but finished at 62 percent. They [Williston State] finished at 86 percent, and in a tight ball game, that’s what got us.”
The Lady Trappers will open Region IX conference play this week, with road games against Laramie County CC in Cheyenne tonight (Thursday) and Eastern Wyoming in Torrington on Saturday. Levett said getting more stops on defense will be key, as will staying focused after a tough loss.
“Sadly, we’ve been through this before, but we have been getting better,” he said. “We’ve been improving as such a young team. It’s not the way we wanted to start 2019, but we’re starting conference play 0-0. We’re in the same spot as anybody else. That’s our mindset, and we’ll be ready for conference play.”