ROCK SPRINGS – The Western Wyoming Community College men’s basketball team escaped with a 10-point victory in overtime on Tuesday, defeating the hosting Utah State University Eastern Golden Eagles, 81-71.
With the win, the Mustangs improve to a record of 9-2.
Western Wyoming took a three-point lead into halftime, shooting about 45 percent from the field. However, USU Eastern managed to take a six-point lead with about 1:40 left in the game.
The Mustangs had only committed two fouls in the second half up to that point and had four timeouts to spare. Head coach Steven Soza knew they needed to slow the game down to give them a chance.
“I remember one of my old coaches told me, ‘When in doubt, find a way to slow the game down and create possessions by taking time off the clock,’” Soza said. “So, we committed like five fouls with only like five seconds coming off the clock.”
This allowed the Mustangs to get back into the game and cut the deficit to two points with about 10 seconds remaining.
With 4.7 seconds remaining, Western Wyoming freshman forward Dayne Prim grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed layup by sophomore guard Manel Ayol. He was fouled on the play and went to the charity stripe.
Prim missed the first attempt and USU Eastern head coach Adjalma Becheli called a timeout.
“When Becheli called that timeout, I talked to Dayne. He was pretty distraught after he missed that first one. He felt like he had the opportunity to tie it,” Soza said.
“I’ve worked with some great coaches and I learned a lot about free throw stunts. I actually told Dayne to shoot his free throw like normal, but I want him to actually step over half a foot. He looked at me like I was crazy.
“I told him, ‘I want you to shoot your free throw normal, but I want to you take half a step to the right. The ball is going to hit the right side of the rim. It’s either going to come off the right side of the basket or it’s going to ricochet and go down the front.’”
Coming out of the timeout, Prim approached the free-throw line and took a step to the right. And just like Soza predicted, the ball came off the rim, which allowed Manel to grab the offensive rebound and draw another foul.
Manel converted both of his free-throw attempts to send the game into overtime.
The Mustangs took advantage of the Golden Eagles in overtime, forcing the ball down low into Prim for the first five points of the extra period.
“You got to give a lot of credit to these kids. They didn’t quit and kept playing. They play for each other. They want to compete and they want to win,” Soza said.
Ayol led the Mustangs in scoring and rebounds, posting 25 points and 12 rebounds.
Prim had another double-double, notching 19 points and 10 rebounds.
“I tell you what, Dayne is a dream come true for a coach because we do run a couple plays for him here and there, but Dayne is just a warrior,” Soza said.
“Manel benefits from Dayne’s tenacity because he’s able to slip to the basket pretty easy when they double on Dayne in the rebounding efforts. He’s able to slip in there and get the rebound.”
Sophomore guard LeChaun Duhart finished the night with 11 points and sophomore guard Jalen Blaize chipped in another 10 off the bench.
The Mustangs were back home in Rushmore Gymnasium on Friday when they hosted Colorado Northwestern Community College at 6 p.m.