The Northwest College women’s basketball team came back from a late 13-point deficit to win by one point, 70-69, in overtime in the Region IX Tournament play-in game at Casper College last week.
The overtime win will not only be remembered as a comeback that extended the Lady Trappers’ season; it’s also the first time in her eight years as NWC’s head coach that Janis Beal’s squad has posted a win at the Swede Gymnasium in Casper.
“We’ve beaten Casper, but we’ve never won in Casper, so that was a good one,” said Beal. “Definitely a fun one to remember.”
After being outscored the first three quarters of play by the Lady Thunderbirds, the Lady Trappers rallied in the fourth to tie the game at the end of regulation and force overtime.
In the first quarter, Casper scored 16 points to Northwest’s 11. They then outscored the Trappers by one point in both the second and third quarters to lead 30-24 at halftime and 43-36 going into the final period.
The Lady Thunderbirds pushed their lead to as many as 13 points with only about six minutes remaining.
Coach Beal said the team reflected on a Feb. 1 game against Casper, when the Lady Trappers cut a 13-point deficit down to three in the final minute and a half of play. NWC ended up losing that home game by five points, 58-53.
“So we kind of used that as some motivation to understand like, ‘Hey let’s play with a sense of urgency with six minutes left now — and we’ve got a chance to get back in it,’” said Beal.
The Lady Trappers responded with the urgency needed to get back into the game.
With 15.3 seconds remaining, Brazilian freshman Domenica Gomes was fouled; she hit two free throws to tie the game at 62 and force overtime.
“I just felt like the girls were really resilient,” said Beal, adding, “I was just proud of how they fought. ... At that point, it could have become a 20-point game instead of us chipping away at it.”
Still, the team would need some heroics in overtime. Casper led 69-65 with 45 seconds remaining, before freshman Charri McArthur of Lovell hit a 3-pointer.
”That allows us to just play defense that next possession instead of having to foul again,” Beal said of the shot. “The girls did a good job of getting a stop and a rebound — and see what happens.”
Petties rebounded a Casper miss with 10.7 seconds on the clock and passed the ball to Gomes, who drove up the court. Gomes passed the ball to McArthur, who — with 1.1 seconds remaining and NWC still trailing 69-68 — drew a foul on another 3-point try.
She made the first free throw to tie the game at 69.
“The first one, I was pretty confident,” McArthur said. “I was like, ‘Alright I have three, we are down by one.’ And I knew it was going in.”
After that make, Casper called a timeout. During the break, “We just told Charri (McArthur) to breathe,” Beal said.
Beal said they also talked about how “after she shoots her second one, no matter what, we were getting our girls off of the line so we didn’t get an over-the-back call or something.
“If for some reason there was a miss, we didn’t want them in there for any chance as a foul,” Beal said, reiterating that, “We just told Charri to breathe.”
On the second attempt, coming out of the timeout, “I don’t know why, but I was a little bit nervous, because, you know, I had to at least make one,” said McArthur.
She ended up missing, giving her one more attempt to put the Lady Trappers ahead.
“On the last one, the fact that the crowd got louder ... it made me focus more, so I knew the third one was going in, too,” said McArthur.
She sunk it and the Lady Trappers won by one point, 70-69.
“She got ... the hard one first, you’re down, now it’s tied up. Now those next two, we just needed to get one of them,” said Beal of McArthur’s game winning free throws. “She did a really good job.”
Coach Beal said the game was won by little things and some big plays, adding that “Kira (Marlow) and Dallas (Petties) attacked the basket really well for us.”
Marlow led the team in points scoring 22 points and led in rebounds with seven defensive boards. She also made 3-of-4 free throw attempts in overtime and finished 7-of-8 from the line for the game.
Petties followed with 16 points and five rebounds. Gomes had a total of four assists in the game.
NWC improved its free throw shooting from 66.7 percent in the first half to 83.3 percent in the second, for an overall total 77.8 percent. Casper’s free throw percentage, meanwhile, dropped from 75 percent in the first half to 52.2 percent in the second to end up at 55.6 percent.
“We made free throws when we needed to,” said Beal. “And they didn’t, which helped.”
McArthur said the way the team had to fight back to get back into the game made it a whole lot more personal for each of the Lady Trappers. She added that the game “was the first time coach has won on the Casper floor, so it was awesome that was the game we went out on in the season.”
NWC now heads to the postseason to play Western Nebraska today (Thursday) at 8 p.m. in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, in the Region IX Tournament.
“Played them back in December and they beat us pretty good,” said Beal “But I really think we are an entirely different team now and I think that if we play with the energy and excitement that we had in Casper, (that) type of thing, I think we’ll be all right. We’ll compete.”
The Region IX Tournament features eight teams in single elimination bracket, with the winner advancing to the NJCAA National Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, March 20-25.
The regional tourney used to feature 16 teams, “so if you won that first game, you were playing the next day,” Beal said. “So it’s kind of nice to even be able to have these couple days of preparation to get ready for that next game.”
Western Nebraska is seeded No. 1 for the south division and NWC is seeded No. 4 for the north division.
“Being down by 13 and then ending up winning really boosted our confidence,” McArthur said, adding that she thinks the confidence will help the team in the tournament.
“We’ll have two more practices in and I think we’ll be ready,” McArthur said Monday.
Games at the Region IX Tournament can be watched by visiting tinyurl.com/RegionIX2017.