Mar 10, 2017 - By Scott Akanewich, Sports EditorCentral Wyoming College's postseason came to a close with a defeat to Lamar Community College.
Central Wyoming College's men's basketball squad was riding high following an opening-round victory over Miles Community College in the Region IX tournament opener as they took the court Thursday in Gillette to face Lamar Community College in a second-round contest.
Unfortunately for Rustlers' head coach Jack Nelson's club, dreams of a run at the national tournament were ended by the Runnin' Lopes in a 60-57 loss.
Both sides entered the game with high-flying offensive attacks, with Central averaging 82.3 points per game and Lamar putting up a robust 85.4.
However, there was no such circus act by either team in this one, as both clubs struggled to find the bottom of the bucket, with Lamar leading by only 30-23 at the halftime break.
But, according to Nelson, it was the defensive prowess on both sides which seemed to have a lid on the basket throughout the proceedings.
"Both teams were really locked in defensively," said Nelson. "For us, we knew they were a very good transition team and that was a very big focal point for us throughout the week in practice, to try to take them out of that aspect of the game."
Things got worse before they got better in the opening stages of the second half, as Central fell behind by as much as 12 points, trailing at 44-32 with 10:16 remaining, before righting the ship and mounting a fightback.
For Nelson, it was a script which his charges were familiar and well-equipped to deal with, he said.
"We've talked all year about playing the same way whether we're up 12 or down 12," said Nelson. "I think our guys have done a great job of adapting that mentality, and we just kept competing and never gave up."
Indeed, Central bounced back with a vengeance, as Alihan Demir canned a bucket coming out of a timeout, which was quickly answered by a 3-pointer from Lamar, before Irshaad Hunte came back with a score, followed by a pair of free throws to reduce the deficit to eight, at 47-39.
Hunte scored again, followed by a Devon Colley 3-pointer, his first basket of the game, then hit a pair of free throws. CWC found itself by only a deuce at 51-49.
Lamar was stubborn in not wanting to relinquish the lead and traded baskets with the Rustlers over the next few minutes until Colley hit a shot on a drive, was fouled, hit the free throw, then was followed by a Demir bucket which brought the game level again at 57-57, with 1:20 remaining.
It was then that Lamar's Taylor Shepard, who had only scored two points in the game, drained a three to close the deal for the Lopes and drop the curtain on Central's season all in one fell swoop, providing the final margin of victory, as a last-second three by Colley fell short and went out of bounds, all but ending the game.
Considering the Rustlers already had lost to Lamar earlier this season by an 85-74 scoreline on Nov. 24, Nelson knew his club was in for a rough go in the rematch, although his defense limited leading scorer Wayne Stewart (19 points per game) to only two points.
"Having that experience to reflect back on was definitely very helpful in preparing for them this time around," said Nelson. "Stewart is a really talented player and a very big part of what they do offensively. We knew for us to win the game, we would have to do a great job on him, and I think our guys responded to the challenge well."
Hunte and Chris Quayle led Central with 14 points apiece.
CWC's ends the season with a 21-9 overall record.
"It's never easy for a season to come to an end," said Nelson. "Our guys loved competing together, and I truly loved coaching them."
Lamar Community College 30 30 -- 60
Central Wyoming College 23 34 -- 57
Lamar Community College - Skinner 13, Holliday 5, W. Stewart 2, Shepard 5, LaNeir 8, R. Stewart 6, Caldwell 13, Hardy 2, Martin 6.
Central Wyoming College - Colley 8, Quayle 14, Brannon 7, Hunte 14, Demir 4, Nolan 4, Barfield Jr. 2, Galante 4.
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