For 35 minutes Saturday afternoon, it appeared the Northwest College women’s basketball team had done everything necessary to earn its second win of the season.
Facing Dawson Community College at the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout, Northwest led in nearly every statistical category, cruising to a 19-point lead with just over five minutes to play. A Lady Trappers win seemed all but assured.
But somebody forgot to tell the Lady Buccaneers. In a momentum shift for the ages, Northwest suddenly couldn’t make a shot in the game’s final minutes, while Dawson couldn’t miss. And as first-year head coach Camden Levett and his bench players watched helplessly from the sidelines, the Lady Bucs finished the improbable comeback, winning 69-68.
“That was a tough one,” Levett said. “There’s a growing curve right now where you have to learn to put teams away in close games. We have to finish games, but we haven’t been on the right end of a lot of games, so we haven’t found that yet.”
Dawson’s Lady Bucs jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s opening minutes, but Northwest rattled off 14 straight points behind three straight baskets by Berkley Larsen and a 3-pointer by Tess Henry for a 14-9 lead. The Lady Trappers went into the half with a 34-23 lead.
“By far, that first half is the best we’ve played all year,” Levett said. “We executed in the half court, we handled the press a lot better than we have.”
The teams went back and forth in the third quarter, with Dawson at one point cutting Northwest’s lead to 38-35. But the Lady Trappers began to pull away late in the third and early into the fourth, pushing their lead to 60-41 with 5:15 left to play.
And that’s when the wheels came off. The Lady Bucs outscored Northwest 28-8 in the closing minutes to escape with the 69-68 win. A Selena Cudney free throw gave the Lady Trappers a one-point lead with three seconds left, but a late foul put Dawson’s Alexius Foster at the line shooting two. Foster calmly netted both, giving DCC the season sweep.
“As a team, that’s one we really wanted,” Levett said. “We just didn’t make enough plays. We gotta finish the ball game. But give them [Dawson] all the credit — they adjusted at halftime and made some tough shots there at the end.”
Sophomore Tayla Sayer agreed.
“We lost both of our games this weekend in the last couple of minutes,” she said. “If we can figure out how to put a whole 40 minutes together, we will be just fine.”
Henry paced Northwest with 16 points, including four 3-pointers.
“When she comes out ready to shoot the ball, it changes us as a team,” Levett said of Henry. “We love having a 5’10” shooter on the outside.”
Cudney finished with 12 points and 11 boards for a double-double; nine of her rebounds came on the defensive end. Larsen also finished with 12 points, plus eight rebounds.
Levett praised Cudney and Larsen, saying they both played physical.
Sayer added nine points and five boards.
“Tayla [Sayer] is really the one that gets us going, she brings energy,” Levett said. “She got a few layups for us off the half-court sets, so that was good.”
Juliana Ribeiro and Shelby Wardell netted six points apiece, with Ribeiro grabbing six rebounds.
Wardell said the team didn’t come out of the gate as fast as they would have liked.
“We battled back into it,” she said. “At the end, we just didn’t do enough to keep the lead.”
Dawson’s Foster led all scorers with 24 points.
NWC led in team rebounding 39-32, a point of pride for Levett.
“We’re undersized in every game, but I can’t think of many games where we’ve been outrebounded,” he said. “These girls are scrappy, and they’re fun to coach.”
NWC made 14 of its 24 free throws, while Dawson made 14 of 18. The Lady Trappers shot 43 percent from the floor, compared to 35 percent for the Lady Bucs.
“This group is excited to come to work everyday, and the team chemistry is the best it’s ever been; we just haven’t gotten over the hump yet,” Levett said, adding, “We’re working hard, we’re doing all the right things.”
MCC 69, Lady Trappers 48
The first time the two teams met this season, Miles Community College made short work of the Lady Trappers, winning in an 80-34 rout.
Squaring off again in the opening game of the First Bank of Wyoming Shootout Friday in Cabre Gym, the game was decidedly different: Northwest hung with Miles Community College for three quarters before the Lady Pioneers pulled away late for the 69-48 win.
“We competed, so we can feel good about that,” Levett said. “I think fouls kind of got us. The fouls were for the wrong people — our guards. With a team that presses for 40 minutes, you don’t want your guards fouling out. But I’m excited for how we came out and played.”
The Lady Trappers have become notorious for their slow starts, and this game was no exception. MCC went on a 13-3 run to open the game, but the Lady Trappers battled back to make it 30-25 at the half. That was despite turning the ball over 15 times in the second quarter.
“We can handle a press for a certain amount of time, but then it just wears on us,” Levett said. “It’s kind of a snowball effect — one turnover turns into three, then into five, then holy cow.”
Northwest kept it close in the third quarter, pulling within a basket at 32-30. However, turnovers continued to plague the home team and the Lady Pioneers outscored Northwest 22-10 in the final frame.
“That’s a national tournament team,” Levett said of MCC. “They’re a good team, they really are. We competed so much better this time around. When we weren’t turning it over, our girls were making some basketball plays. We were so balanced in our scoring that everyone who played ... scored some points.”
Ribeiro was the only Lady Trapper to score in double figures, just missing a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
“She’s a kid that’s kind of been struggling for us, so we kind of challenged her to get things going,” Levett said. “We brought her off the bench to shake things up, and she responded well for us.”
Cudney finished with eight points, while Larsen added seven points and nine boards.
Jena Lohrenz netted six points to go along with seven rebounds, while Sayer led the team in assists with five.
“Tayla [Sayer] didn’t show up a lot in the stat sheet, but what she brings to us is just that 35 minutes of taking care of the ball,” Levett said. “I want the ball in her hands as much as possible.”
Northwest finished with 32 turnovers, compared to just 17 for MCC. The Lady Trappers made 17 of 25 free throws to finish at 68 percent, but MCC countered with a solid 84 percent, going 22 of 26. Northwest outrebounded MCC 37-25.
“As hard as it is to lose, we are making steady improvements towards being where we want to be,” said sophomore Kaylee Brown. “Coach told us to trust the process, and that’s what we are all trying to do.”
The Lady Trappers host Western Nebraska Community College Friday at Cabre Gym. Levett said this week will be spent working on the press and taking care of the ball.
“We can’t shoot and we can’t score if we turn the ball over,” he said. “We’ve got great supporters within the community and with the families of our players. We’re working hard for them, so keep coming out to the games — we’ll get this thing going.”