“Hands down, defense is where we played our best ball. Despite our record, we were able to shut teams down because we would change things up during the game. We forced an average of 15 turnovers a game and teams struggled to adjust.”
— Adrian Hayes, Colorado Northwestern Community College men’s basketball coach, about his team’s strength this season.
The Colorado Northwestern Community College women’s basketball team came close all season to posting a winning record for the first time in over 10 years.
But the Spartans couldn’t finish in four close games — losing by two to Eastern Utah, by three to Colby Community College, by four to Western Wyoming and by five to Lake Region.
Head coach Antowin Edwards said the four losses by five or less points is what defined the season for his team, as they finished with a record of 11-20 overall, 1-14 in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.
“This is the best season we have had here in about 10 years, but we lost four games by a combined total of (14) points,” he said. “We had a talented group of players and we beat some quality teams, but in the close games we would get behind late and not be able to finish it.”
CNCC, who plays at the Rangely campus, wrapped up the season March 8 with a 72-68 loss to Eastern Utah in the first round of the Region 18 Tournament.
The Spartans went into the winter break with a 9-4 record, but Edwards said the SWAC is one of the toughest junior college conferences around.
“There are six teams and we play each other three times, so it is hard to beat a team a second time let alone a third time,” he said. “Looking at the records, each team besides one has more than 10 league losses, but it is because everyone is tough and we beat up on each other.”
Despite all the close losses earlier in the season, Edwards said his girls played their most complete game of the year in a 76-74 victory over Southern Idaho in the regular-season finale.
The Spartans had a 14-point lead at halftime, but Southern Idaho tied it up in the fourth quarter before CNCC hit back-to-back 3-pointers to go up for good.
“I thought we defended really well and we scored the ball when we needed,” Edwards said. “Our top two players fouled out in the fourth quarter, but instead of giving up, the team held their heads up and won the game.
“The players played exceptionally well and gave their maximum effort against (Southern Idaho).”
The Spartans were led by sophomore guard Jaynelle Johnson, who was named a second-team all-region player and tied a school record with seven 3-pointers in a game, as well as freshman guard Jasmine Ransom, who was named an honorable mention all-region player.
Edwards said heading into his fourth season as head coach next year, he thinks he has the pieces to finally get over the hump and post a winning record.
“We have some talented girls coming back in Jasmine and fellow freshmen Michelle Blanton and Desiree Anderson,” he said. “Those three will be our focal point next season and will lead the team. We are still growing, but we are moving in the right direction.”
CNCC men’s basketball uses 2011-2012 season to rebuild
The CNCC men’s basketball squad was made up of 13 players this season.
Of those 13, only three were sophomores and the rest freshmen.
Head coach Adrian Hayes said the team’s 6-24 overall record may not look appealing, but this season was more about gaining experience than notching victories.
“We had strong efforts from every guy this season and a lot of the younger guys stepped up,” said Hayes, who is in his third year as head coach. “With a young team, a lot of the young players had to play big minutes. We may have struggled a little bit, but they got great experience playing in league games and in the Region 18 Tournament.”
The Spartans went 1-14 in SWAC play and were bounced in the first round of the Region 18 Tournament with an 81-56 loss to Snow College.
“Snow College was a tough match-up and it was the fourth time we played them this season, so they knew us,” Hayes said. “It was great though, for the younger guys to see how the tournament is done and they got a chance to be seen by some four year colleges.”
The Spartans marquee victory this season came Jan. 21 at home against Northern Idaho, then the No. 10-ranked team in the country.
CNCC rode strong defense to a 74-69 victory.
“Northern Idaho was our one real quality win because it was the first time we had beat them in 11 years,” Hayes said. “We didn’t win any conference games last year, so to get that conference win over them was just a big (win) for us.”
Defense was the identity of the Spartans this year, Hayes said.
From man-to-man to zone defense to presses, he said his players could do it all.
“Hands down, defense is where we played our best ball,” he said. “Despite our record, we were able to shut teams down because we would change things up during the game. We forced an average of 15 turnovers a game and teams struggled to adjust.”
The Spartans will return all-conference honorable mention Riley Parish next season, which Hayes said is a good foundation to build on.
“I feel really good going into next season,” he said. “We want to bring in a point guard and some big guys to do battle in the paint, but we will have guys next season who are battle tested and have experience under their belts.”