The Trappers (6-4) opened the tournament against a familiar foe Friday, squaring off against Williston State (4-6). Though NWC won the teams’ first meeting earlier this season, the Tetons proved too much to handle in the rematch, holding off a late rally by the Trappers for a 80-74 win.
NWC shook off the loss Saturday, dominating Rocky Mountain JV 84-51 to return home with a 1-1 split.
“Games after Thanksgiving can be the hardest games to play,” said NWC head coach Brian Erickson. “You’re just coming off the holiday, and then you have the long bus ride. It can be difficult. But we took a lot of positives from it — I’m happy with that. I hope we can take those positives and keep working on them this week.”
Williston State 80, Trappers 74
During their first contest against Williston State earlier this month, the Trappers dominated at both ends of the floor, securing a 97-85 win.
Friday’s game was a different matter, as the Tetons seemed to have learned from their mistakes, outlasting the Trappers 80-74.
“We just came out flat,” Erickson said. “I think we just played way too selfish on both ends. I think during our losing streak, we’ve gotten a little bit away from what we do well. I think when you start losing, you start trying to do too much. You gotta play team basketball at both ends.”
The Tetons shot well from outside, sinking 15 3-pointers, compared to just six for the Trappers.
“Their No. 12 [Michael Vandall] was 8-10 from the 3-point line; he couldn’t miss,” Erickson said. “That was a big, big key to the game. And if you look at free throw percentages, we don’t make any and they do. Those are two big stats right there that they really got done and we didn’t.”
The Trappers finished with three players in double digits, led by 23 points off the bench by Umar Jalloh. Calvin Fugett netted 12 points to go along with four assists, while Lauken Taufa added 11. Jalloh also led the team in rebounds with seven.
Lagio Grantsaan finished with nine points to go along with four assists, and Reme Torbert added six points.
“Umar Jalloh, we had talked with him throughout the week about trying to play at a higher level,” Erickson said. “As you can see, he sure did. He came out and just brought it from the get-go.”
The coach added that Taufa “did some good things for us,” too.
“But overall, we just didn’t shoot it well,” Erickson said. “I think we’re at a time now where we need to be getting better guard play, gotta find the guys who can get it done.”
The Trappers finished with six 3-pointers, and were out-rebounded by Williston State 39-33.
Trappers 84, Rocky Mountain JV 51
Hoping to wash the bitter taste of Friday’s loss out of their mouths, the Trappers went into Saturday’s game against Rocky Mountain JV with a renewed focus, beating the Battlin’ Bears 84-51.
“This was a totally different team from the night before,” Erickson said of his squad. “They were making the extra pass, trying to make rotations a lot better. Instead of making just one rotation, they were making two or three.”
Five Trappers scored in double digits, led by Luc Lombardy’s game-high 17 points. Lombardy continues to have the hot hand behind the arc, hitting five 3-pointers in the contest.
Taufa continued to impress for the Trappers, finishing with 15 points. Torbert followed with 12 points, while Grantsaan chipped in 11.
Freshman big man Axel Okongo rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points to go along with four rebounds.
“Rocky Mountain was just small, so we really focused on the ball has to go inside,” Erickson said. “Our bigs have to be our leading scorers and they were.”
Okongo, Taufa and Grantsaan hitting doubles digits was “exactly where we needed to be, dominating inside,” the coach said. “We have to do a little better job of getting the ball inside.”
The Trappers finished with 10 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Rocky Mountain 38-23. NWC shot 58 percent on free throws, 50 percent on 3-point shots and 55 percent from the field, compared to Rocky’s 73 percent on free throws, 26 percent on 3-point shots and 38 percent from the field.
The Trappers will be at home this weekend, as they host the Big Horn Federal Shootout Friday and Saturday. Friday’s game features a matchup with Dawson Community College at 7:30 p.m., followed Saturday by a rematch with Rocky Mountain JV at 5 p.m. Erickson said both games will be vital to the Trappers’ experience as the winter break looms on the horizon.
“These next two weeks are the most important weeks we have,” Erickson said. “Not just playing like we want to, but playing how we should going into the break — something we can come back on a positive note.”
As for Friday’s game against Dawson Community College, Erickson says the Buccaneers will be a good test.
“Dawson’s tough,” Erickson said. “I think they’re a talented bunch, and they play really, really hard. They have some really good shooters. I think if we can just play together a little bit better on both ends, we’ll have a great chance. ... There’s no easy games coming up.”