TORRINGTON – The Eastern Wyoming College men’s basketball team saw its four-game winning streak snapped Friday evening to McCook Community College, but the Lancers battled back to salvage a weekend split, defeating North Platte on Saturday afternoon.
On Friday, Eastern Wyoming raced out to a 17-5 lead in the first five minutes of the game, only to let it slip away late in the 75-71 loss to the McCook Indians.
It didn’t take long for McCook to work its way back into the ballgame, cutting the deficit to 23-20.
Five straight points from EWC sophomore Kayden Toldson slowed the McCook run, but the Indians had one more run late in the half, cutting the Lancer lead to 34-33 at the break.
It took 58 seconds into the second half before McCook took its first lead of the game, however, it was short-lived as freshman Matthew Veen answered with two points of his own to put EWC back in front 38-37.
It was a lead the Lancers held for another nine-plus minutes. McCook regained the lead with nine minutes left on the clock. EWC never led again for the remainder of the game.
“(Friday) was a tough one. It was kind of the same thing (as Saturday),” EWC men’s coach Tom Andersen said. “We let it go at the end.”
Toldson’s old-fashioned 3-point play tied the game with 2:56 remaining, but the visitors outscored the Lancers 10-6 over the remainder of the game to hand the Eastern Wyoming its fifth loss of the season.
Sophomore Quincy Taylor led the Lancers with 18 points, while Toldson added 15. Sophomore Nikolas Gustavson had 12.
The next day, the Lancers held on in the closing moments for an 81-78 victory over the North Platte Community College Knights.
Eastern Wyoming used a full-court press to knock North Platte on its heels early, grabbing a 21-11 lead.
“We had a lot of loose balls and deflections, but we couldn’t get the loose ones,” Andersen said. “We wanted to get it up and down and get some tempo going, but they handled it pretty well.”
It proved to be the largest lead of the game for the Lancers.
North Platte chipped away at the deficit for the remainder of the half, ultimately taking a 40-36 lead into halftime.
The Knights held onto the lead for nearly six minutes into the second half.
Sophomore point guard Enzo Clouvel Urie’s 3-pointer put the Lancers back on top 46-45.
It was the only lead change of the second half. EWC extended the lead to as many as 11 at 62-51 after Taylor converted an and-one with 8:56 left in the game.
“The first 10 minutes of the second half, our defense did a good job for us,” Andersen said. “We switched to a zone for a little bit. We were able to get a lead. They cut it down, but we were able to get it back up.”
However, North Platte wasn’t going to go away quietly.
The visitors trimmed the EWC lead to 79-78 with 11 seconds remaining in the game.
Following the basket, North Platte fouled quickly, sending Taylor to the free throw line for two. The sophomore knocked in both, and the Knights had one last opportunity to tie the game. The 3-point attempt to force overtime fell off the front of the rim, securing the three-point victory for EWC.
“We didn’t finish the last two minutes well,” Andersen said. “We made it really tough on our self, but our kids made the plays when they had to.”
The Lancers had five players score in double-figures, led by Toldson with 18. Taylor added 14, while Gustavson had 13. Sophomore Chris Tsamas and Veen had 10 and 11, respectively.
The Lancers shot 48.3% from the field while holding North Platte to 39.4%.
“We still have a lot of things to learn,” Andersen said. “The kids are playing hard, and that’s all we can ask for at this point.”
The Eastern Wyoming men (8-5) travel to the Region IX Shootout in Windsor, Colo. this weekend. They will face Lamar Community College (6-4) at 8 p.m. Friday and Otero Junior College (9-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday.