Lately, the Northwest men’s basketball team is like a patient whose illness defies diagnosis by teams of doctors.
Coach Brian Erickson said his young team of mostly new faces is a bunch of nice guys with a bunch of talent, a group just waiting to bust out.
Except the Trappers have been waiting a bit too long for the breakout performance they need.
Last week’s rollercoaster ride was typical of much of the 2017-18 season with a crunching 89-58 loss to Western Wyoming and a tantalizing 90-85 loss to Central Wyoming.
The home games at Cabre Gym opened the Region IX league season and the losses left Northwest’s record at 9-9.
The Central game was galling because 10 minutes into the first half the Trappers led 24-10 and it appeared the Rustlers would be hustled right out the door. The feel-good scenario didn’t last, with Central taking the lead at 33-32 with about two-and-a-half minutes left in the first half.
“When we play with energy we can beat anybody by 20 points,” said forward Luc Lombardy, who sparked the fast start with his outside shooting and scored 11 points in the game. “Or we can lose to anybody.”
The worrisome trend is turning the spigot on and off.
“We played a good 20 minutes,” Lombardy said. “We need to be playing a good 40 minutes.”
For all of the angst surrounding the double defeats, the Trappers had a slim chance to rally past Central after things appeared hopeless in the second half.
At the 8:06 mark, the Rustlers led 73-55. Yet abruptly the Trappers came to life as if poked by a cattle prod.
Long-range jumpers began falling, inside follow-up shots dropped, Lombardy produced a second round of threes.
Lagio Grantsaan (16 points), Umar Jalloh (11) and Calvin Fugett Jr. (seven assists) were men of the moment.
But no one energized the offense like Reme Torbert, who scored 30 points, including never-say-die 3-pointers in the closing seconds.
He went down as a noble warrior, refusing to surrender until the buzzer sounded. A comeback had seemed unlikely given the clocking ticking down.
“I thought we had enough time,” Torbert said. “The intensity changed and we played to the end. The biggest thing is we need to play for each other. We made a step.”
Erickson’s translation is that at times the Trappers play selfishly and it costs them, but when they play as a team and stick to the game plan they do well.
“The highs were high and the lows were low,” Erickson said of the two games. “We went back to selfish basketball. It was the old us.”
Besides injuries sidelining and slowing some players, against Western the Trappers made just four out of 18 lay-up attempts. Against Central the Trappers committed 26 turnovers.
“That killed us,” Erickson said. “We’re a great team in practice. We’re that close. I think we’re right there.”