ROCK SPRINGS – After beating Central Wyoming Community College a few short weeks ago on the road, the Western Wyoming Community College men’s basketball team won its fourth-straight game Wednesday after beating the Rustlers at home 98-86 on Sophomore Night.
With the home fans cheering them on, the Mustangs came out hot in the first half. Western took a 49-35 lead into the break and never looked back. Midway through the second half, CWC battled back within four, but with some strong play on the defensive end, the Mustangs closed out the 12-point win over its Region IX North foe.
Less than two minutes into the first half, WWCC jumped out to a 6-2 lead after Manel Ayol muscled his way into the paint for his first basket. A few plays later, CWC cut the lead back to within two, but Trey Marble had other plans. After dropping in three-straight foul shots, Marble extended Western’s lead back up to 11-6 with 17:33 remaining.
Less than one minute later, Jalen Blaize kept the Mustangs offense going after he knocked down Western’s first 3-pointer of the night. With their foot on the gas pedal, the Mustangs cranked the lead all the way up to 18-8 after John Batts and Blaize combined for another four-straight points. With just over 12 minutes remaining, the Rustlers cut the lead back to four, but the Mustangs stayed on the attack.
Instead of letting CWC battle its way back, Eddie Creal and Ayol combined for six-straight points. This extended the Mustangs’ lead to 26-17 with just over nine minutes left in the half. Soon after, Marble gave his team a 10-point lead after knocking down another deep shot from behind the perimeter. This only added more fire under the Mustangs’ feet. Less than one minute later, Marble continued to put in great work as he found Blaize down low for another layup to go in front 36-21.
As time went on, Blaize continued to make his presence known. Just over the five-minute mark, Blaize extended the lead to 41-26 after knocking down another 3-point shot. Less than one minute after the big shot by Blaize, Western dropped in another four-straight points to keep CWC on its heels.
A few plays later, Carter Rosette put the Mustangs on top 48-29 after battling down low for his own putback. Not long after, Rosette found his way to the foul line with 55 seconds remaining and knocked down one of two shots. The Mustangs closed out the first half with a 14-point advantage.
After an impressive 20 minutes of play, Western started the second half feeling a little too comfortable. Less than two minutes in, Central battled back to within 11 after outscoring the Mustangs 8-5. Not long after, the Mustangs defense allowed the Rustlers to move to within five 58-53 with 16 minutes remaining.
With Central knocking at the door, the Mustangs never panicked. Instead, Ryan Gunderson found his way to the foul line, where he extended Western’s lead back up to six. This created a much-needed spark for the home team as the Mustangs went back to work.
With momentum finally starting to build back up again, Batts put his team on his back. In less than two minutes, he knocked down nine-straight points for the Mustangs as Western led 69-60 with 12:26 remaining. Still not giving up, the Rustlers once again cut the lead back to six.
With time winding down, Ayol kept Western in front 76-65 after capitalizing on a huge 3-point play. The Mustangs held steady, and with less than two minutes remaining, they forced a crucial turnover where Batts found Obi Agu on the fast break. This extended the lead back up to 10.
In the closing minutes, Central fouled the Mustangs numerous times trying to attempt a comeback. This put Western to the line where Batts, Gunderson, Agu and Rosette all combined for 11 easy points. A few plays later, Rocky Hansen dropped in one last 3-pointer to put the icing on the cake. With only seconds remaining, the Mustangs closed out the game with a 98-86 victory.
After a hardfought battle and an impressive win on Sophomore Night, Western will look to carry its momentum into its next game on Saturday, Feb. 23, when the team travels to Powell for a matchup against Northwest College. Saturday’s tip-off is set for 4 p.m.