After Double OT Heartbreaker AT MCC, NWC Upsets Casper College
Coming off a five-game stretch where the team’s only win was a forfeit, the Northwest College men’s basketball team knew it had reached a crossroads.
The Trappers’ last win on the court was their stunning upset against then sixth-ranked Gillette College in late January. And after a double-OT loss to Miles Community College last Wednesday, head coach Brian Erickson knew his team was running out of season.
“I told the guys, ‘Hey, we’re getting down to it,’” Erickson said. “We needed a win against Casper if we were going to finish strong.”
The Trappers (14-14, 5-7) took those words to heart, jumping off to a quick start against the visiting Thunderbirds (19-9, 7-5), then holding off one rally after another to secure a 91-85 win. Reme Torbert had the hot hand from behind the arc, going a perfect 7-7 and finishing with a game-high 34 points.
The game held even more significance for sophomores Blake Hinze, Jace Johnson and Luc Lombardy, as it was their last at Cabre Gym.
“We played pretty well both halves,” Erickson said. “The biggest thing is we just shot it so well. Most Sophomore Nights, guys come out so pumped up that you’re not very good the first five minutes, you have to settle in. We were kind of the opposite tonight [Saturday].”
The Trappers came out focused and patient, spreading the ball around while building a 17-7 lead. Casper settled into a groove of their own to battle back — outscoring NWC 18-4 in the final four minutes of the first half to lead 45-42.
“We kind of slipped back into our old tendencies. We seemed a little beat up at the half, and I told them, ‘Hey, you leave all that in here. We have 20 more minutes. Just go out and play,’” Erickson said. “After that, the guys stopped worrying about losing, started playing to win.”
Casper added to their lead at the beginning of the second half behind the 3-point shooting of Wilfried Likayi and Nolan Bertain. The pair would hit 13 3-pointers between them, while Erickson wondered if his guys were taking too many shots from behind the arc.
“We got a couple to fall, but we were still settling a little bit,” he said. “We took 29 [shots from behind the arc], usually that’s a good amount. But when Reme [Torbert] is 7-7, I’m wondering why he wasn’t shooting eight or nine or 10 or 11.”
Torbert took the game over in the second half, something Erickson said he’s done routinely of late.
“I told Reme, ‘Just keep shooting.’” Erickson said. “He really just took over that game. This semester, he’s just been one of those guys who says, ‘Let me put you on my back and I’ll carry you.’”
Erickson said he’s been impressed with the freshman’s work ethic this semester. Since the winter break, Torbert has averaged 20 points per game, becoming a leader for the team.
“He’s in the gym every day; he doesn’t take any days off,” Erickson explained. “He’ll call me and say, ‘Hey coach, can you open the gym?’ He’s in the weight room every day, running on the treadmill. He’s just stepped his game up so much. And tonight, guys followed him. It was an impressive night to watch basketball.”
For Torbert, Saturday’s win was about getting back to team basketball.
“We needed a win,” Torbert said. “My teammates have faith in me. I was being aggressive like they’ve been telling me to do. Just trying to be a team player, and taking over when I have to.”
Erickson also singled out the play of Lombardy and Hinze, two of his sophomores who will leave a big hole to fill at the end of this season.
“Luc [Lombardy] played well, he shot it well,” Erickson said. “From there, it was just a team effort. Lagio [Grantsaan] did some good things, so did Lau [Taufa]. We were a little scrappy tonight. Jace [Johnson] and Blake [Hinze], they’re always scrappy. It was a good team win.”
Lombardy took a few moments after the game to savor the win. As he accepted kudos from well-wishers filing out of the training room, Lombardy reflected on his last game at Cabre Gym and his career as a Trapper.
“I feel good; I’m so excited to have played this game,” he said. “I’m really sad. I don’t want to be done playing here. There’s always good energy here; I’m going to miss it.”
Winning their last game at home is something the sophomores will always remember, Erickson said, and that made the moment even more special.
“It was pretty cool to see them go out like that,” he said. “They’ll always remember that one minute of recognition. It’s pretty emotional.”
The Trappers finished with three players scoring in double digits, led by Torbert’s 34 points. Lombardy finished his home career as Trapper with 17 points; he also led the team in rebounds with seven. Grantsaan rounded out the top three with 10 points to go along with four boards and two assists.
Sophomores Hinze and Johnson netted five points apiece.
MCC 111, TRAPPERS 102, 2OT
The victory over Casper followed a tough loss against Miles Community College on Wednesday, Feb. 14. The Trappers scored 102 points and finished with five players in double digits — two recording double-doubles.
But it wasn’t enough, as the Pioneers outlasted NWC through two overtimes to grab a 111-102 win in Miles City.
Grantsaan led the way for the Trappers, netting 27 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. Lombardy narrowly missed a double-double, finishing with 21 points, including five 3-pointers, and pulling down nine boards.
Torbert came up two assists short of a triple-double, recording 17 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
NWC couldn’t find an answer for the Pioneers’ Erie Olonade, who led all scorers with 37 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
The Trappers traveled to Gillette Wednesday for a rematch against the Pronghorns (25-3, 9-3), and will finish the regular season on the road at Sheridan College (24-3, 10-2) Saturday.
“This time with Sheridan, we just have to be humble,” Torbert said. “We have to prepare, we have to be ready. If we prepare right, we should be OK.”
Erickson said the team knows what it has to do, it’s now just a matter of getting it done.
“It’s a lot of tightening things up still,” Erickson said. “If you’re trying to make a run, every game is going to be tight. It doesn’t matter about Xs and Os this late, it’s about the culture you got on the team. I think we have a good one, it’s just a matter of putting it together for 40 minutes each game.”