After five straight losses to close out the month of November, the Northwest College men’s basketball team stormed back into the win column on their home floor Saturday, outlasting Dawson Community College 66-55 at Cabre Gym.
It was the final game of the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout for the Trappers (5-8); the team opened the event Friday with a 78-69 loss to Miles Community College.
“In spite of all the things we didn’t do right, the guys put together enough possessions of things that we did things correctly to weather the storm,” NWC head coach Dawud Abdur-Rahkman said of the win over Dawson. “They kept their composure, and I thought that was key.”
The two teams met in an earlier contest three weeks ago in Glendive, Montana, on Dawson’s (4-6) home court. The Trappers won that game 80-79 in overtime, so the team knew the rematch would be a battle.
The Trappers started slow, spotting Dawson a 9-0 lead before settling into an offensive rhythm. Making a couple of runs of their own, Northwest still trailed 33-27 at the half.
“I don’t know if it’s a trend [slow starts] for us,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “But I know some tempers flared early, and I think at times that’s a good thing. It motivated our guys, and maybe at times we need some of that. But we definitely can’t win against good teams by geting behind early.”
At halftime, the coach asked his team, “are you gonna be guys who have short memories and bounce back? You have to have both,” Abdur-Rahkman recalled. “And I thought that’s what they did.”
Things began to click in the second half behind the solid play of Kyle Brown, Lagio Grantsaan and Brian Howell. Howell had a little extra motivation to play hard, as his parents made the trip from North Carolina to watch their son play.
“We definitely played tougher and more physical this game,” said Howell, whose dunk in the game’s final minutes had the crowd on its feet. “We kept running our offense the way we know how to run it.”
The Trappers outscored Dawson 38-22 in the second half to pick up their first win of December.
“I think in the second half, just being patient and trusting in the offense and your teammates really made a difference,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “The first responsibility is taking care of the basketball and then figuring out what you’re going to do after that. After we started doing that, it started to help us.”
The Trappers also benefitted from solid minutes off the bench, with every player who saw minutes contributing in some way.
“We had a good effort from our bench, and that’s one of the things we had talked about going into this game,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “As I looked at the minutes from [Friday’s game against MCC], I wanted to make sure I spread the minutes a little bit better. Our optimal time should be about 25 minutes. If we can get that for our better players, that would be ideal.”
Three Trappers finished in double figures, led by Brown and Howell with 16 points apiece.
“Kyle [Brown] also had five rebounds, and those five rebounds were critical,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “Sixteen points and five rebounds for a guy his size is big. Brian [Howell] did well also, though I’d like to see him with a few more rebounds.”
Reme Torbert netted 13 points, while Grantsaan just missed a double-double, finishing with nine points and 13 rebounds.
“We did alright, but I’m always convinced we can play better,” Grantsaan said. “We’re coming together as a team. We’re getting there.”
Calvin Fugett had an unselfish night off the bench, leading the team in assists with eight and recording a pair of steals. Axel Okongo made the most of his minutes as well, blocking three shots.
“Calvin [Fugett] had six rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and one steal,” Abdur-Rahkman said. “That’s a great game. His game is really coming together.”
The Trappers outrebounded Dawson 46-34, an aspect of the game Northwest continues to improve on. On a team heavy with perimeter shooters, convincing players to follow their shots isn’t always easy.
“When it comes to us getting the boards and following our shots, it’s really all about heart,” Howell said. “I think that’s something everybody on the team has — it just depends on when you want to use it. We’re starting to use it throughout the game now.”
The Trappers are off until Saturday, when they host a home game of sorts against the All Stars at Cody High School. It’s the final home game until after the Christmas break, and Abdur-Rahkman said the team needs to keep working together to build off the win against Dawson.
“I get into these guys about just playing for each other and playing together,” he said. “It’s knowing that they don’t need to make a home run play every time they catch the ball; we can pass around for a better shot. A lot of these guys don’t come from that environment, so it takes a while to buy in. But when they do buy in, it works for us. They’re pretty talented.”
MCC 78, Trappers 69
The Trappers opened the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout Friday against Miles Community College, a team they beat on the road in early November.
It was a more determined Pioneers team that Northwest faced this time around, however, as the Trappers squandered a four-point lead at halftime to fall 78-69. MCC outscored Northwest 41-28 in the second half to improve to 4-7 on the year.
Howell paced the Trappers with 15 points, followed by Saheem Anthony with 14. Darius Webster recorded a double-double, netting 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
Jason Feliz added eight points, while Brown and Torbert finished with six apiece. Torbert also led the team in assists with six.
Grantsaan finished with five points, six boards and three steals.