Casper College Bball

Casper College's Antun Maricevic shoots against Miles Community College during their game Wednesday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym in Casper.

Josh Galemore, Star-Tribune

The Casper College men’s basketball team that takes the floor Saturday against Western Wyoming Community College will bear little resemblance to the team that was riding a six-game winning streak three weeks ago.

Since then, the Thunderbirds (17-8, 5-4 Region IX North) have lost starting center Octavion Corley for the year to a head injury, sophomore guard Damian Wilson is no longer on the team and freshman forward Zion Tordoff has played limited minutes as he tries to play through a torn meniscus.

Those three combined to average 25.7 points per game and provided the T-Birds with some depth.

“We’ve got some guys who are having to play a ton of minutes,” Casper College head coach Dan Russell said, “but that’s not an excuse. We have to bring better effort.”

Since winning their first three sub-region games the T-Birds have dropped four of six, including a 71-62 loss to Miles Community College on Wednesday, in which they had 22 turnovers.

“Our guard play has to be better,” Russell said. “We have struggled with our decision-making at times and we’re not going to win too many games with 22 turnovers.

“But our guys are still out here competing, so I give them credit for that. We’ve responded well in practice this week, so we’ll see if that carries over into Saturday.”

While winning the sub-region is no longer on the table, Casper College still is in position to host a Region IX tournament game if it finishes in the top four. Currently, the T-Birds are tied with WWCC (12-11, 5-4) for the fourth spot one game back of Central Wyoming College.

“This is a big game for us,” Russell said. “Western is in a similar situation, so we’ve just got to figure out a way to turn things around.”

The T-Birds won 69-66 at Western back on Jan. 17 behind 16 points from sophomore point guard Chase Winchester and 10 from sophomore big man Antun Maricevic.

Maricevic has been playing with a banged-up knee, but still leads the team in scoring with 15.3 points per game. Freshman guard Nolan Bertain (13.5), Winchester (13.0) and freshman forward Wilfried Likayi (10.0) are also averaging double-digit points.

The key for the T-Birds down the stretch — they play four of their final five regular season games at home — is getting some contributions off the bench.

“This is a tough stretch for us,” Russell said, “but we’ve got to adopt a next-man-up mentality.”

Follow sports editor Jack Nowlin on Twitter @CASJackN

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Sports Editor

Jack Nowlin returned to the Star-Tribune in 2007 after eight years covering Michigan State University athletics. A Wyoming native, and a graduate of Jeffrey City High School and the University of Wyoming, Jack serves as the Star-Tribune’s sports editor.

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