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NWC women fight for tourney seeding

Posted by: NWC Athletics — February 20, 2014
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By DANTE GEOFFREY Tribune Sports Writer Courtesy of the Powell Tribune

Hopes of hosting the regional tournament were dashed on Saturday when the NWC women’s basketball team lost 65-58 in Central Wyoming. 

The loss dropped the Trappers (17-11, 8-6) out of Region IX North title contention and into a tie for fourth place with Sheridan College (18-10, 8-6). 

With two games remaining — both at home — Northwest is still fighting for seeding in the division, and could conceivably finish second. 

The Trappers hosted Little Big Horn at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday (after press time) and take on first-place Western Wyoming in the season finale at 3 p.m. Saturday. 

If the Trappers beat Little Big Horn, a win over Western Wyoming could have big implications. Not only would it improve Northwest’s conference record to 10-6, but it would increase NWC’s chances of winning any potential tiebreakers. 

After conference record, the record against the sub-region’s top teams (starting with No. 1 and working down) is used to break ties. 

NWC head coach Janis Beal is concerning herself less with what other teams are doing and is focusing on getting her team playing its best heading into the postseason. 

“The biggest thing is just taking pride in these last two home games and taking it one game at a time and taking care of our business,” Beal said. 

The Trappers get the benefit of playing their final two games at home, where they are 5-1 in conference this season (versus just 3-5 on the road). 

“I think it’s great anytime you can get the last ones at home,” Beal said. “Hopefully (we) gain some momentum going into the tournament.” 

A little momentum was lost when the Trappers fell in Riverton on Saturday. 

Northwest had another slow start and battled through a poor shooting day (31.7 percent from the floor) in the seven-point loss. 

“I feel like we had some great looks (in the first half) that we just didn’t finish,” Beal said. “Those kinds of things can be momentum killers if you miss it.” 

The Trappers were burned by poor perimeter defense. 

Central Wyoming’s Jolanna Sazue went 5-for-10 from the 3-point line on her way to a game-high 22 points. 

Beal said her team knew Sazue was a threat from the outside but the Trappers still “didn’t do a great job defending their (Central’s) shooters.” 

Imari Simpson led NWC with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and was a perfect 5-for-5 from the free throw line. 

Sophomore Dana Bjorhus recorded a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds. 

“We need someone to step up and score ... so it’s been good to see her do that in the last couple games,” Beal said. 

Freshman Hatti Snyder had a game-high 12 rebounds and a team-high three assists. 

On Feb. 12 the NWC women did at home what they couldn’t do on the road — complete a comeback against the Sheridan Generals. The Trappers won 78-75 Wednesday night after trailing by 15 with less than nine minutes to play in the second half. 

TaNeil Clayton converted a three-point play to give Northwest its first lead of the second period with just 1:09 left on the clock. Imari Simpson added another bucket soon after to put the Trappers up three. 

Sheridan wouldn’t score again and the NWC bench, which spent most of the game’s final minutes on its feet, and fans burst into celebration as the horn sounded and the win was secure. 

The victory momentarily leapfrogged Northwest over Sheridan (18-10, 8-6) and into fourth place in Region IX North.

“I was hoping that win would give us some momentum,” Beal said. 

The game started as a back-and-forth affair and remained that way until 2:04 left in the first half. With the score tied at 36, the Generals went on a 9-1 run to go up 45-37 at the break. 

“They can score large amounts in a quick amount of time,” Beal said. “You let down your guard for any amount of time they can definitely make a run.” 

Sheridan slowly added to its advantage and, with the help of seven Trapper fouls, led 65-50 with just 8:57 left in the game. 

The Generals had committed only two fouls when they went into the single bonus. The discrepancy did not sit well with Beal, who used a timeout as an opportunity to express her displeasure with the way the whistles were blowing. 

“It was letting our team know that we have their back and don’t quit, keep fighting,” the coach said. 

During that timeout Beal reminded her girls how they nearly came back from down 10 points with 30 seconds to go at Sheridan Jan. 11, so 15 points in nine minutes is more than doable. 

From that moment on Northwest was called for just two more fouls while the Generals committed seven infractions. Northwest was 12-for-18 from the line and Sheridan was 18- for-19. 

The Trappers, fueled by Simpson’s season-high 23 points and Bjorhus’ 17, outscored the Generals 28-10 in the final 8:57. 

It still took nearly every second to whittle down Sheridan’s lead. A Bjorhus three made it 69-65 with 5:20 left but it would be another four minutes before the Trappers could pull even and go ahead for good. 

Simpson was 8-of-14 from the field and 7-of-8 from the line. She also recorded five rebounds, a steal and a block in just 22:28 of playing time. Simpson came in and out of the game to ensure she would avoid foul trouble and stay fresh for the game’s stretch run. 

Bjorhus was 6-for-10 from the field, including 3-of-4 from deep in a team-high 36:05 on the court. 

Snyder grabbed a Trapperbest 10 rebounds (five offensive) and scored four points. 

Sophomore Leanne Winterholler hit three 3-pointers on her way to 11 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal. 

Clayton, a freshman, scored eight points, including three on the game-winning and-one play, had three assists and two steals. 

“From the defensive play to the offensive play I thought TaNeil was a huge part of that run, that spark we needed,” Beal said. 

Freshman Mandee Christensen, who started in place of the injured Andressa Augusto, scored seven points and had two assists. More importantly, she limited her turnovers to just three in 27 minutes of action. Augusto did not receive any reassuring news regarding her immediate basketball future when she had an MRI on Friday. 

“We’re planning on her being out for the rest of the season,” Beal said.

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