Feb 6, 2014 - By Randy Tucker, Sports WriterCentral Wyoming evened it Region IX men's basketball record to 6-6 with a hard-fought win over visiting Western Wyoming 58-45 Wednesday evening at Rustler gym.
The Rustlers led start to finish in a game that featured physical play in the post, aggressive defense, and flaring tempers.
"We've got to grind it out," Central head coach Pat Rafferty said. "With our personnel, that's how we have to play. That's the first gritty win we've had."
Central took the floor without point guard Bryce Canda, who injured his wrist in practice earlier this week. That chore fell on Eimer Lopez, who handled the duties well.
"I thought Eimer was really solid and played well at the point," Rafferty said.
Western had a huge height advantage with 6-11 Namdi Okonkwo and 6-8 Stefan Wright taking up a lot of space, but CWC took the ball inside with hard play. No Rustler was more effective than Isaiah Tademy, who battled all night with physical play on the low block.
The style of play was set early and hard by the Rustlers, who challenged every shot, blocked out hard, and made aggressive moves to the basket.
"We're not the kind of team that floats in for jump shot," Rafferty said. "We have to play with grit."
Daryle Morgan Jr. was consistent off the dribble, using his quickness to blow by the larger Mustangs, while Jairo Lopez and Tademy used a more brutal style in the paint to take Western out of their rhythm.
In an interesting matchup 6-3 Matt Johnson of Evanston did an outstanding job defending both of Western's posts throughout the game.
One blemish on the effort came as the half closed. Central rallied late on a 7-0 run behind a Morgan layup and and Lopez jumper and 3-pointer to lead 30-23 with 11 seconds left in the half and had a chance to convert another transition basket but threw it out of bounds on the break.
Western took a long range shot that glanced straight up above the rim and Okonkwo soared two feet above the rim to tap it in at the buzzer.
The last-second lapse brought a halftime challenge from Rafferty, and the Rustlers rallied with one of their best second-half defensive games of the season.
The margin stayed at six in CWC's favor for the first 12 minutes of the final half, but Eimer Lopez hit a follow shot and Malik Wilson hit a hook over Okonkwo. The Rustlers led by a dozen.
Central built the lead to 17 on baskets and free throws from Tademy before a blowup between Jairo Lopez and Western's Dmitri Saliba resulted in both players whistled for technical fouls. It was the fifth for both, and they exited the game with 3:21 left.
The teams traded baskets over the final minutes, and a clanking 3-pointer off the glass by Western'sPedro Faria closed the game to its final 13 point margin.
Central travels to Gillette on Saturday and returns home the following Saturday against Northwest.
CENTRAL WYOMING 30 28 --58
WESTERN WYOMING 25 20 --45
Central Wyoming --Matt Robinson 3-4 3, Eimer Lopez 3 (2) 0-0 12, Daryle Morgan 3 (1) 2-3 11, Jairo Lopez 2 2-2 6, Blake Cleveringa (1) 0-0 3, Isaiah Tademy 4 (1) 5-9 17, Malik Wilson 2 0-0 4. Totals 14 (5) 15-20 58
Western Wyoming --Jonathon Mines 2 (1) 1-2 8, Stefan Wright 1 0-0 2, Mike Pelo 3 0-0 6, Pedro Faria (2) 1-3 7, Isaiah Parros 1 1-5 3, Jeremy Head 1 3-4 5, Dimitri Saliba 3 0-0 6, Namdi Okonkwo 4 0-0 8. Totals 15 (3) 6-14 45
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