SHERIDAN — The box score from Saturday’s game between the Sheridan College Generals and the Northwest College Trappers would throw the typical basketball fan for a loop.
Northwest outrebounded Sheridan 47-32; the Trappers snatched 20 offensive rebounds and had more assists and less turnovers than the Generals. Sheridan also shot just 8 of 17 (47 percent) from the free-throw line.
Yet, somehow, the Generals were able to walk away with a 62-58 win in the first round of the Region IX Tournament.
“I’ve never been a part of a game where you got outrebounded like that, you shot that poorly from the free-throw line and still won,” Sheridan head coach Matt Hammer said after the game.
As has been an issue for the Generals on numerous occasions this season, Hammer attributed the sloppy game to the lack of energy in the opening minutes.
Northwest took over right away, outworking Sheridan and forcing the Generals to play from behind.
The Trappers pulled down 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and assisted on 9 of 12 made field goals. More telling, though, may have been the fact that Sheridan attempted just one free throw in the half — a Celio Araujo miss on a one-and-one.
Northwest jumped to a 9-4 lead in the first five minutes. Even after Sheridan cut it to 1 midway through the half, the Trappers utilized an active zone defense to make things difficult for Hammer’s bunch.
With eight minutes left, Northwest took a 20-14 lead, forcing Hammer to call a timeout to try and regroup. Eight seconds later, Hammer was forced to use another timeout when Araujo got trapped in the corner on the inbounds pass.
The Trappers stretched it to 10 at the 3:45 mark, but a Channel Banks 3-pointer with 50 seconds to go made it a 31-24 Northwest lead at halftime.
“We weren’t even close to being the more aggressive team on the floor,” Hammer said of the first half. “(Northwest) is just really solid on the defensive end. You never really know what they’re doing, so we tell our guys it doesn’t matter what they’re doing; it matters what we’re doing. And we have to be aggressive.”
Behind the play of their core sophomore group — four of five Sheridan starters are sophomores — the Generals chipped away at the Northwest lead in the second half.
Xavier Jackson attacked the rim and finished tough shots in the paint. After going 3 for 9 for 5 points in the first half, Jackson finished 8 for 17 for a game-high 18 points on the night.
The Generals cut it to 35-33 four minutes into the second half and kept it around a 1- or 2-point deficit for the next several possessions.
Banks knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 45 and drained another one on the next possession to give Sheridan its first lead at 48-47.
Sheridan never trailed again.
“(Jackson) came out and did a great job attacking the glass and getting to the paint and got some tough shots in the lane to fall,” Hammer said. “He’s that sophomore that you need. When he gets to the tournament, he doesn’t want his time here to be over. Those sophomores, you could tell they didn’t want this to end.”
Sheridan missed free throws late, and Northwest’s Blake Hinze hit a 3 to cut it to 61-58 with seven seconds to go, but Jackson stepped up and hit 1 of 2 free throws to seal it for the Generals.
The win advanced Sheridan to the second round of the tournament, where the North 4-seed will take on South No. 1 Laramie County Community College Thursday. The remainder of the tournament will be played at Gillette College — the top seed out of the North.
Sheridan and LCCC played in a pre-season jamboree but didn’t play an official game against each other this season. Thursday’s game will tip off at 3 p.m., with the winner advancing and the loser’s season coming to a close.
“It’s going to be fun,” Hammer said. “The thing with this team, we just want to keep playing. We want to stick together as long as we can. And I don’t think there’s a team that we can’t compete with. Our good is just as good as anyone else’s. We’ve just got to get ready and go over there and try to jump on them from the start.”
Northwest College…………………………………………..31 27 — 58
Sheridan College…………………………………………….24 38 — 62
Northwest — Bains 16, Londole 15, Leach 8, Lombardy 6, McArthur 6, Koud 3, Hinze 3 Baxter 1
Sheridan — Jackson 18, Banks 9, Ricketts 9, Araujo 7, Sherrell 6, Harris 6, Dieng 4, Brown 3
Northwest 47 (Bains 15); Sheridan 32 (Dieng 10)
Northwest 16 (Koud, Bains 4); Sheridan 13 (Araujo 4)