The three-game swing began with a win over conference rival Laramie County Community College on Thursday, 78-75. That was followed by a disappointing loss to Snow College in the opening round of the Western Wyoming Classic, 95-91 in overtime.
The Trappers bounced back Saturday with a dominating effort against Impact Academy, winning 100-70 to round out the trip.
“The guys did a great job for this early in the season,” said NWC head coach Brian Erickson. “The one we lost was tough, but it was a really fun game. It was really the experience we need—to be in some tough games and have to finish. We just have to trust the process a little bit more, get the buy-in a little bit more. These games were valuable in terms of experience.”
Trappers 78, LCCC 75
The Trappers opened the season Thursday against conference rival Laramie County Community College, holding off a late charge by the Golden Eagles to win 78-75 in Cheyenne. Three Trappers finished the game in double-digits, and Erickson said a win against a familiar foe is always a good way to start the season — especially on the road.
“We were up by eight with two minutes left,” Erickson said. “We couldn’t make a free throw, but early in the year, you gotta find a way. We’re going to have some hurdles that hit us, and the guys will need to grind it out. They did that; they did a good job.”
The Trappers dominated the first 12 minutes, building an early lead and playing sharp defense. As the game settled into a rhythm, however, NWC found themselves in foul trouble, forcing
Erickson and his staff to make adjustments.
“We moved some guys around, and I was impressed with how the team responded,” Erickson said. “They didn’t let nerves get to them too much. They adjusted and played well.”
LCCC was able to claw its way back into the game, led by a game-high 26 points by sophomore Elijah Oliver.
“I’m more worried about what we do than what the other team does at this point,” Erickson said. “I don’t have a lot of experience, so I don’t want to give them too much information about the other team. I want them worried about our concept, and they did a good job of carrying out what we do well.”
One aspect of LCCC’s game the Trappers hadn’t spent a great deal of time on forced the biggest adjustment: playing a zone defense. Erickson said Wednesday was the only day the Trappers had worked on playing against zone since practice began Oct. 1. He joked with his players that his “coaching brilliance had left them one day” to gameplan against it.
“... They zoned us for 40 minutes,” Erickson said. “That was probably the thing that was even better about these guys — they responded to it. I knew we might get zoned, but throughout the year we’re going to get more man-to-man, so my focus has been on that.”
After a solid first half, Erickson told his team they needed to attack the basket more. A quick glance at the score sheet showed the Trappers did just that, as the number of 3-point shots attempted in the second half dropped considerably, with most of the action taking place in the paint.
“When guys attacked, we were really, really good,” Erickson said. “We were 4-15 from 3-point range in the first half, 1-6 in the second. We had a lot of layups, a lot of shots in the paint. Once the guys figured they needed to start attacking, things changed.”
Things also changed on the number of calls that went the Trappers’ way.
“We were kind of settling, we weren’t looking to go to the rim and try to draw contact,” Erickson said. “Once we did, we started geting the calls.”
Freshman Lagio Grantsaan paced the Trappers with the season’s first double-double, grabbing 10 boards to go along with 14 points. Fellow freshman Umar Jalloh led the team in scoring with 17 points, followed by 12 from Jordan Banks. Jalloh also finished with seven rebounds, with Banks right behind with six.
“Jalloh really attacked the rim; he had four dunks,” Erickson said. “Things we’ve been talking to him about — exploding, getting to the rim — he showed it in this game.”
Sophomore Blake Hinze of Cody netted eight points in the game, including a pair of 3-pointers, while freshmen Laukan Taufa and Reme Torbert finished with seven points apiece. Calvin Fugett and Luc Lombardy added six points and five points, respectively.
Freshman big man Axel Okongo rounded out the scoring for the Trappers with two points.
Snow College 95, Trappers 91 OT
Fresh off their big conference win, the Trappers traveled to Rock Springs for the Western Wyoming Community College Classic on Friday. NWC opened play against Snow College, losing a thriller in overtime, 95-91.
Erickson called it a game of runs.
“I don’t think we came out ready to go in the first half, second half and overtime,” the coach said. “We dug ourselves a little hole at the beginning of each of those, but the positive is they fought back in each one of them.”
The Badgers lived up to their billing, as did the Trappers, as both teams shot early and often. The score was knotted up at 37-37 going into the half, and at the end of regulation neither team could find an advantage. Going into overtime, both teams had 79 points on the board.
“I think we had a four-point lead with two minutes to go, it was similar to the night before [against LCCC],” Erickson said. “We kind of tried to give away that one and won, and against Snow we didn’t win.”
Snow College finally gained the upper hand in the extra period, holding on for a 95-91 win. The Badgers had six players score in double digits, led by Jake Walker with 22 and Logan Hokanson with 15.
“That game was a really good game for us,” Erickson said. “You lose, but I always say the ‘L’ is the lesson. What are we going to learn from last week this week? What are we going to learn this week for next? We go from there.”
The Trappers were paced by Hinze with 22 points off the bench (including six 3s), followed by Jalloh and Lombardy with 13 apiece. Grantsaan added nine points and six rebounds against Snow, with Chandler Ramos and Banks chipping in seven points each.
As a team, the Trappers finished 14 rebounds compared to 19 for Snow College. NWC won the assist battle 15-12, and sank 13 shots from behind the arc, to just eight for the Badgers.
“It was a game of adjustments,” Erickson said. “They’d do something different on ball screens to hurt us, and we’d try to bump up and go under. We had to adjust on the fly the whole game, and it was a good experience for the guys. Having a game plan, sometimes it doesn’t go the way you want it to. You gotta switch it up.”
Trappers 100, Impact Academy 70
The Trappers shook off the disappointing loss in a big way Saturday, rebounding with a 100-70 win against Impact Academy.
“Coming off the loss [to Snow College], we made too many mistakes. We got away from what we are,” Erickson said. “I told the guys to just do what we do. Be us.”
Despite leading 45-38 at the half, Erickson said he thought the Trappers were just going through the motions.
“We didn’t play very well, and Impact was playing hard and knocking down shots. They outplayed us that first half,” Erickson said. “It was kind of disappointing, coming off the loss against Snow and playing a game we should win.”
The second half, though, the Trappers came out focused and determined to leave Rock Springs on a strong note. A single-digit lead to start the second period quickly morphed into a 30-point NWC win.
“They really came out in the second half and responded,” Erickson said.
Every Trapper on the active roster scored at least one point in the game and four hit double digits.
Grantsaan recorded his second double-double with a 17-point, 13-rebound performance. Nine of Grantsaan’s boards came on the defensive end of the floor.
“From day one, Lagio [Grantsaan] has just really impressed and gotten better at everything,” Erickson said. “He’s still got a lot of work to do, like all of us do, but he’s been great for us. He can rebound, he can shoot it, he’s had some put-backs, some dunks. He’s kind of been all-around. It’s been great to watch him develop.”
Reme Torbert led the way in scoring for NWC, finishing with 21 points, including four 3-pointers, to go along with five boards. Hinze was on fire from beyond the arc for the second straight game, sinking six in a 20-point showing off the bench, and Calvin Fugett added 10 points and grabbed six rebounds. Kyle Owens finished with seven boards to go along with two points.
Once the Trappers pulled away, Erickson was able to empty his bench, giving his role players some invaluable minutes.
“We want to try to get up early to give other guys that experience; it was fun,” he said. “Our goal when it got late was for everybody to score, and we were able to do that.”
NWC finished with 15 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Impact Academy 57-38.
The Trappers are back at it Friday night, as they host Williston State College on the opening night of the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout. Opening tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. at Cabre Gym. NWC will follow up Saturday against Game Gear at 5 p.m.