CHEYENNE – Second halves have been the enemy of Laramie County Community College since the Christmas break.
The Golden Eagles’ arch nemesis haunted them again Saturday against Gillette.
LCCC rallied midway through the first half, carried an eight-point lead into the locker room and ultimately fumbled it in a 98-90 overtime loss. It was the third straight loss for LCCC, and it was the fifth time this season it was tied or the Eagles led at halftime, only to come up empty in the win column.
“Second half has been our nemesis all semester long here,” Eagles coach Jason Ficca said. “Second half is just difficult. I know there’s a lot of frustrated guys and frustrated coaches, but we’ve got to find some answers about what’s going on in the second half of these games and find a way to close.”
LCCC (11-17 overall, 5-9 Region IX North) was unable to close out Gillette on Saturday.
The Pronghorns proved lethal from the field and beyond the arc early on. Gillette used an 8-0 run to sprint out to a 17-6 lead less than seven minutes in. The visitors hit three 3-pointers in that span, including one by Jevon Westcarth to bleed the margin to 17-6 with 13 minutes, 36 seconds left in the half.
The Pronghorns continued to spread the ball around the perimeter and waited for the right look. More often than not, they didn’t miss.
After Tyrese Potoma drained an NBA-range 3 to pull LCCC within two points, Gillette’s Dreshawn Allen answered with a trey of his own. Minutes later, Bradley Akhile added another 3-pointer to push the visitors ahead 31-23.
It took most of the first half for the Eagles to tweak their defense and better defend the perimeter against the sharp-shooting Pronghorns. LCCC’s zone scheme was exploited by Gillette, so Ficca switched to man-to-man. The move paid off.
Gillette, which seemed to hit every shot early, started to miss.
LCCC took advantage. Hay-den Collier hit a 3 to give his team a 34-33 lead with a little more than 5 minutes remaining in the half. A pair of Mateo Zovko 3s capped a 9-2 run for the home team as its lead swelled to 42-36.
“We were in a zone, so they had a couple open looks,” said LCCC freshman guard Daequan Spragion, who posted 22 points. “When we switched to man, we had hands in their face, so they started to miss.”
The Eagles sported a 46-38 advantage at the intermission, but the past came back to bite them again in the second half.
Gillette hit five 3s to open second half. Consecutive treys by Kailleb Walton-Blanden and Akhile handed the visitors a 49-48 lead. But LCCC held its own, kept pace and countered with nearly every possession it got.
Another 3-pointer by Zovko tied it 75-75 with a shade more than 3 minutes to go in regulation. A drive by Potoma handed the Eagles a 77-76 edge.
“We just needed to play the same way we did in the first half,” said Potoma, who also netted 22 points. “We needed to be solid on defense, execute on offense and (we) didn’t follow through with that.”
LCCC trailed by four with 42 seconds left, before Cortney Dean hit the biggest shot of the afternoon. The LCCC freshman swished his only 3 of the day to send it to overtime.
It was all Gillette from there.
The Pronghorns scored 17 points in the extra period. Thirteen of those came from the free-throw line.
“They did a good job all night long of making free throws,” Ficca said. “There’s not much you can do when they’re shooting free throws. You can’t contest, you’ve got to hope they miss.
“It was a bad week. We’ve got to decide how we want next week to go. We have two winnable games, albeit on the road, but we’ve got to decide and make up our mind on how we want next week to go because this was a bad week.”
GILLETTE 98, LCCC 90, OT
Halftime: LCCC 46-38. Regulation: 81-81.
Gillette: Archambault 13, Akhile 30, Walton-Blanden 12, Roberson 6, Robinson 0, Allen 25, Davis 0, Westcarth 15, Jerome 3.
LCCC: Potoma 22, Spragion 22, Cabs 4, Collier 3, Appelgren 6, Zovko 21, Manzi 3, Dean 9.
Gillette women 85, LCCC 73
The game was deadlocked going into the fourth quarter, but an extended run by Gillette and a persistent presence on the boards, resulted in easy buckets and an 85-73 win for the visitors Saturday.
“I felt like the girls played well. They played pretty hard. It’s just when it came down to it, (Gillette) bullied us down on the low block,” Eagles coach Brian Ortmeier said. “We gave up way too many 2-footers. Everything was just right at the rim (for them).
“If we’d done a little bit better job at defending the basket down low, (it would be) probably a little different result.”
The teams were tied 56-56 entering the fourth quarter, thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from sophomore Gabi O’Connor and a short-range jumper by freshman Haylie Anderson.
But the Pronghorns iced the game in the final frame.
Gillette opened the fourth with a 14-4 run to grab a 70-60 lead.
LCCC (16-11 overall, 7-5 Region IX North) was outrebounded 43-29, including a 31-19 margin on the defensive glass.
“They did a nice job of getting on the boards and controlling the boards from the start,” Ortmeier said. “Again, being able to get it back to a tie there going into the fourth. They got on the boards more and they were working us more in the low block. When we did get a stop, a lot of times they had somebody else on the backside. It really did come to rebounding and points in the point.
“That makes a big difference, especially when it comes down to the fourth quarter. Everybody gets a little tired and when you can control the boards late and get those easier shots, it makes a big difference, instead of having to rely more on the 3 ball and other shots.”
Freshman Ja’Kia Wells led the Eagles with 23 points. The Mesquite, Texas, product was 7 of 16 from the floor and 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. Anderson finished with 18 points, including four 3s, while O’Connor posted 16 points and added a team-high five assists.
LCCC travels to Eastern Wyoming at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.
GILLETTE 85, LCCC 73
Gillette…................. 20 18 18 29 – 85
Laramie County….. 18 14 24 17 – 73
Gillette: Buchanan 2, Patton 6, Trosper 0, Thompson 2, Jenkins 10, Cutright 25, McInerney 15, Gumber 11, Coleman 13.
LCCC: Stephenson 0, Anderson 18, Walker 9, O’Brien 6, Wells 23, O’Connor 16, Milan 0, Johnson 1, Stoner 0, Fagenbush 0.
Tyler Poslosky is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at 307-633-3123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TylerPoslosky.