The Casper College basketball teams might want to get used to riding on a bus.
The Thunderbirds, who are both coming off impressive home victories over Western Nebraska Community College on Monday, will play six of seven games away from Swede Erickson T-Bird Gym in January.
“We’re going to have to be road warriors,” men’s coach Dan Russell said. “But if we can survive this month we’ll have a chance late to compete for a (Region IX North) title.”
The men’s team (12-4) held on for an 84-79 victory Monday, with Chase Winchester scoring a season-high 28 points. The sophomore guard had missed a number of games in the first semester with an injured ankle.
“It was nice to have our point guard back,” Russell said. “He’s our floor general out there, so to have him back was a sigh of relief.”
The T-Birds will be without freshman guard Nolan Bertain (fibula), sophomore big man Octavion Corley (knee) and sophomore guard Damian Wilson (illness) this weekend as they open Region IX North play at Little Big Horn College on Thursday and Miles Community College on Friday. Those three are averaging a combined 34.7 points per game.
“We’re going to have to roll with eight-nine guys,” Russell said. “We were better defensively Monday and I think defense is going to have to be our identity for now.”
While Antun Maricevic averages 14.6 points per game to lead five players in double figures, the T-Birds have gotten a boost from redshirt freshman Blake Godwin.
The Sheridan native averages 6.4 points per game and leads the team in 3-point shooting at 43.4 percent.
“I can’t say enough about Blake,” Russell said. “We had no plans for him to be this productive, but he has answered the bell and even bailed us out of some games.”
The Casper College women’s team was even more impressive Monday.
The T-Birds (14-2) jumped out to a 21-4 lead after the first quarter on their way to an 82-67 victory over the No. 24 Cougars.
“That was one of the first times I’ve had a team come back from the (winter) break and do that,” head coach Dwight Gunnare said. “And I was very pleased that we were able to do it against a quality team that beat us earlier in the year.”
The T-Birds got 18 points and 12 rebounds from sophomore center Emily Robertson (Natrona County) and freshman guard Lucie Hoskova had a team-high 19 points.
Hoskova leads the team with 13.5 points per game, followed by sophomore guard Paula Orenes Sanchez (11.7), Robertson (10.3) and sophomore guard Ashlie Larson (9.9).
“This group really plays together as a team,” Gunnare said. “In our games against some of the best teams they’ve made a run at us, but our team has kept its composure and finished out the game.”
They’ll need to do that again this weekend. While Little Big Horn isn’t expected to present much of a challenge, Miles CC is currently 14-2 and is averaging 88.0 points per game.
After that, the T-Birds play at Western Wyoming Community College and Central Wyoming College before hosting Northwest College on Jan. 24. They close the month with games at Sheridan College and Gillette College.
Of course, that leads into February when the T-Birds play six of their final seven regular-season games at home.
“This is a great schedule for us,” Gunnare said. “If we can get some road wins it will really set us up for February.
“And if we can come home from this weekend 2-0 I will be very happy.”