By: Shawn O’Brate
RIVERTON – The Central Wyoming College (CWC) Rustler and Lady Rustler basketball seasons have been under way for the past two weeks now, with the women going 0-2 during their first weekend of games while the mens’ team went 2-1.
Those first games were outside Riverton which made this past weekend a special one as the two teams hosted the annual Rustler Classic at CWC, their first home games of the season and last time playing in Riverton until Tuesday, November 29.
The Lady Rustlers started things off on Friday night as they took on Air Force Prep. Sophomore point guard Chevelle Boyd led the team with 22 points, 12 of which came from the three-point line (4-11), while sophomore forward Kalista Niu grabbed the most rebounds (nine) and finished tied for the most assists on the team (three).
Overall, the Lady Rustlers couldn’t find the net enough to pull out the victory as they shot 30.2% from the field compared to Air Force Prep’s 49.3%. The Lady Rustlers would fall for the third-straight game, this time by a score of 97-61.
“Air Force Prep is always tough,” Lady Rustler Head Coach Layton Westmoreland said. “They are recruited by the D1 coaches at the academy in hopes of making it on their roster after a year or two, so you always get great competition. We just didn’t bring consistency for four quarters.”
After that game the men’s team took the court against Lamar Community College where they handled the Runnin’ Lopes team from the tip-off. They headed into halftime up 48-38 and never let their foot off the gas as three separate Rustler bench players came onto the court and scored double-digits.
Rustlers’ starting guard Lorence Dela Cruz and starting power forward Niieihii Black of Arapaho both scored 15 or more points while newcomers Deotis Nunn (12 pts), Julian Roberts (17 pts) and Torron Phillip (13) all played 21 or more minutes off the bench.
The Rustlers held the lead over Lamar for the full 40 minutes and were able to play all 11 student-athletes on the roster. Nunn ended up being named the player of the game as he finished with 12 points, five assists, two rebounds and was perfect from three-point range (2-2).
“I was very proud of our guys for taking care of an opponent we were clearly better than,” Coach Brad Schmit said afterward.
On Saturday the games started a little earlier as the Lady Rustlers took on the Lady Spartans of Colorado Northwestern Community College at 2 p.m.
Sadly, they would also lose this game as they are now 0-4 to start the season. The Lady Spartans’ 81-63 victory over CWC was fueled by freshman forward Hailey Long who went 12-for-18 from the field, 3-for-5 from three and 9-for-13 from the free-throw line to finish with 36 points for the Lady Spartans.
Boyd once again led the Lady Rustlers in scoring as she dropped 19 points on the Lady Spartans, nine of which came from the free-throw line where she went 9-for-11. Outside Boyd and freshman guard Melanie Garcia (10 pts) the Lady Rustlers could not find the basket enough to hold their opponents down.
Garcia did finish with a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, but needed more help from the bench players that only scored a combined total of 11 points.
“We played aggressively … and had a chance to make some things happen but an early second quarter drought gave us a tough comeback to fight for,” Coach Westmoreland said. “Every game is a chance to learn and grow but the most important thing for me right now is rebuilding the culture of the program.”
Then the men’s team stumbled as well as they lost to Air Force Prep by a score of 110-94.
“Credit to Air Force Prep for making every single play and shot throughout the second half,” Coach Schmit said. “We didn’t make it hard on them by any means, but their players made plays and ours did not.”
Coach Schmit was not wrong when he spoke on Air Force Prep’s execution from the field as they made 18 of their 22 shots after halftime, pushing them up on CWC by 20 points. Sophomore guard Trey Simms came off the bench and hit five-of-eight shots from beyond the arc to go along with his team-high four steals.
Simms was awarded the player of the game designation as his 19 points led the team, just barely ahead of Dela Cruz (17) who was perfect from the free-throw line (6-6). They were just two of five Rustler players who finished with double-digits, but it just wasn’t enough in the long run.
The Rustlers continue their season Tuesday, November 15, in Sterling, Colo., before heading to the College of Southern Idaho (CSI) for two games this weekend (3 p.m. on Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday). The Lady Rustlers also play two games at Southern Idaho this weekend, one at 1 p.m. on Friday against a top-20 CSI team and the next at 5 p.m. on Saturday.