EWC opens 2022-23 basketball season

TORRINGTON – The Eastern Wyoming College women’s and men’s basketball teams tipped off the home portion of the schedule on Friday and Saturday at the Verl Petsch Jr. Activities Center.

The women dropped the weekend doubleheader by a combined eight points, falling to North Platte Community College 63-60 on Friday evening and to McCook Community College 59-54 on Saturday afternoon.

“Good learning experience for a lot of players who don’t have a lot of experience playing at this level yet. We are a very young team in terms of college basketball experience. To be able to be out there in front of our home crowd for the first two games and feeling that support was a great opening weekend for us even those the scores weren’t what we would like it to be,” first-year coach Tim Larsen said. “We know where we can improve on and get better but having the fans there and the support from the school and community was awesome.”

On Friday, EWC led North Platte 32-28 at halftime, but over the final 20 minutes, the Lady Knights turned the tables and outscored the Lady Lancers 35-28 to escape with the three-point victory.

With 1:10 left in the game, Eastern Wyoming freshman Amanda Sene da Cruz hit a pair of free throws to tie the game at 59.

North Platte and EWC turned the ball over on their next offensive possessions, leaving the game tied at 59 with 41.6 seconds left.

It was the first of three consecutive turnovers by the Lady Lancers.

Coming out of a timeout, Torrington High School alum and North Platte freshman Reece Halley put the visitors in front 60-59 after knocking down one of two free throw attempts.

Over the course of the final 41 seconds, the Lady Knights knocked down another three free throws to EWC’s one to hand the Lady Lancers their first loss of the season.

Freshman Tamar Kopilevich recorded a double-double, leading EWC with 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Andrea Gutierrez and Ines Gnahore added 10 points each. Freshman Avery West had seven points off the bench for EWC.

“The two Torrington players – Avery West and Sierra Allen – coming from a small-town high school basketball into the college ranks and just going out there and playing hard,” Larsen said. “On Friday, Avery had seven points and had a couple big shots for us. Sierra just does what she does. She goes down and posts up. She’s physical, and they both played really, really well for us. Everybody did something well, but we need to do it more consistently.”

On Saturday, the third quarter made the difference for the Lady Lancers.

Tied at 25 at halftime, the McCook Lady Indians outscored EWC 14-9 in the third quarter as the visitors held the five-point advantage over the final 10 minutes of the game.

As a team, the Lady Lancers shot 30.2% on Friday and 36% on Saturday.

Sene da Cruz led the team with 14 points, while Gnahore added 10 points and seven rebounds.

“We need to continue to trust our process. We have to obviously shoot the ball a little bit better, but that will come as we get more game-like conditions and get more game-speed reps,” Larsen said. “We need to continue to understand we need to get ourselves better every possession, each and every day and continuing to work hard so that we can get over that hump and get that win.”

The Lady Lancers (0-2) leave Tuesday morning for Thatcher, Arizona to take part in the Eastern Arizona Classic. On Thursday, they face the NJCAA Division II No. 18-ranked Pima Community College at 3:30 p.m. On Friday, they will face Cochise College at 1:30 p.m., and on Saturday, they wrap up the weekend against Eastern Arizona College at 2 p.m.

“I think it’s going to be a great weekend for us. Not even looking at the results, yes, we want to win, but being able to have a young team get the experience against Pima Community College, who is ranked No. 18 in the country in Division II junior colleges. They go to the national tournament almost every year, and not to mention, they are my old team. It’ll be a fun game. Then get to play the likes of Cochise and Eastern Arizona. Eastern Arizona was ranked in the top 10 in DI jucos last year. It’s really high-level competition. Throwing them into the fire early, but to get that experience against really good competition early is invaluable because you get to learn a lot about who you are and what you can do well and things you can improve.”

Lancer men 1-2 to start the season

The EWC men also opened the season last week, traveling to Air Force Prep on Tuesday.

The Lancers picked up an 89-87 victory to begin the 2022-23 season. Leading 46-38 at halftime, they fended off a second-half charge by Air Force Prep to hold on for the two-point victory.

Freshman John Barbee led the team with 24 points off the bench for EWC, while freshman Atte Vuoristo added 16 points. The Lancers shot 47.1% in the win.

Over the weekend, Eastern Wyoming suffered a pair of double-digit losses to North Platte and McCook.

On Friday, the Knights held a 41-37 lead at halftime, extending to a 13-point advantage by the final horn. North Platte outscored EWC 49-40 in the second half to leave with a 90-77 victory.

Barbee led the team with 22 points, while freshman Marko Krtinic added a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. Vuoristo added 13 points.

On Saturday, a big second half by McCook propelled the Indians to an 88-64 win over the Lancers.

The Lancers kept things close early, trailing 39-31 at half, but McCook poured on 49 points, while limiting EWC to only 33 points to pull away for the win.

Barbee led the team with 21 points, while freshman Gad Tshishimbi Biseba added 13 and Krtinic 12.

This weekend, the Lancers (1-2) travel to Twin Falls, Idaho for the Rob Green Classic. They open the weekend on Thursday at 7 p.m. against the No. 17-ranked College of Southern Idaho Golden Eagles. They also face Tyler (Texas) Junior College on Friday at 5 p.m. and Casper College on Saturday at 5 p.m.