LCCC punches ticket to Region IX tournament with blowout win over Eastern Wyoming
Mar. 5—CHEYENNE — One minute and 18 seconds into the game between the Laramie County Community College men's basketball team and Eastern Wyoming College, Eastern Wyoming's John Barbee made a cut to the rim and scored a layup to tie the game 2-2.
That bucket became the first, and only time the game was tied between the teams. From that point on, LCCC dominated the game on both ends of the court.
The Golden Eagles outscored Eastern Wyoming 99-64 for the rest of the game to win 101-66.
"We got down and defended," Golden Eagles coach DeWayne Saulsberry said. "I really enjoyed watch these guys perform tonight."
Both teams came into the game knowing that this could be their last of the season. LCCC was able to come out and ride that wave of emotion for a boost at the beginning.
"We are really trying to compete for that regional championship," sophomore forward Xavier McCord said. "Everybody has a head on their shoulders and a tough mindset."
LCCC jumped out to a 29-14 lead just shy of the midway point in the first half. It maintained that lead for the five minutes of the game, before jumping out to a 20-point lead with 3 minutes, 55 seconds remaining. LCCC's lead continued to grow, and by the end of the half, the Eagles led 58-29.
The first half was a display of great defense and stellar shooting from the Eagles. They shot 62.9% from the field (22-of-35) and 5-of-11 from deep. They were led by 16 points from McCord and 14 points from sophomore Tristan Starks.
"Being confident and being aggressive was the main thing (that led to our success)," McCord said. "Attacking the rim, and just getting that going and flowing for our offense definitely was a big part."
LCCC's lead continued to grow in the second half. Six minutes into the final half, freshman Brandon Tchouya sunk a free throw to give LCCC a 77-36 lead.
The Eagles maintained a 40-plus point margin for the next 10-minutes of the game. With four minutes and 40 seconds left to play, Pedro Ellery sunk a lone free throw to give LCCC a 47-point advantage over Eastern Wyoming — its biggest lead of the game.
Eastern Wyoming outscored LCCC 14-2 over the final 4:30 of the game. But in the end, it wasn't nearly enough to overcome the massive hole the Eagles put them in.
After scoring 16 first-half points, McCord finished the game with a game-high 27 points on 12-of-15 shooting. He also was a perfect 2-for-2 from beyond the arch. Starks added six more points, bringing his total to 20 for the game.
But the sophomore stars did not do it all on their own. LCCC had three other players finish with double digit points. Ben Hageman and Brandon Tchouya added 12 points each and combined for 11 rebounds. Ellery rounded out the double digit scorers, finishing with 10.
"Confidence right now is what it is all about this time of year," Saulsberry said. "Guys being willing to step up and be willing to take shots (is huge). Sometimes guys in tournament games don't want to take them, and I think we have guys that do."
While the offense did its part, the LCCC defense played excellent in the game. In the first half, LCCC 10 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and held Eastern Wyoming to just 29% shooting from the field (9-of-31). Overall, the Eagles allowed Eastern Wyoming to convert just 35.4% of their shots during the game and forced a total of 15 turnovers.
"When you have these tournament games, you know you will have some games where your shot is not falling," Saulsberry said. "For these guys, we know we can defend. That is the only thing that travels with you is defense."
With this win, LCCC punched its ticket to the Region IX semifinals next week in Casper.
Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.