The Casper College women’s basketball team might want to get used to playing at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.

The 17th-ranked T-Birds (23-2, 9-0 Region IX North) play four of their final five regular season games at The Swede. And, with a two-game lead in the sub-region standings, they’re in the driver’s seat to host the Region IX Tournament.

“It’s a true luxury to be home,” Casper College head coach Dwight Gunnare said. “I’m proud of what this team did in January because we put ourselves in a really good position.”

All the T-Birds did in January was go 8-0 — they’ve won 13 in a row entering Saturday’s home game against Western Wyoming Community College — with six of those coming on the road.

Casper College enters the final stretch 11-1 at The Swede, with its only home loss back on Nov. 17 to Snow College.

Freshman guard Lucie Hoskova leads the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game, with sophomores Paula Orenes Sanchez (10.8), Natrona County grad Emily Robertson (10.3) and Ashlie Larson (10.0) also averaging double-digit points.

But the T-Birds also have a number of reserves with the ability to put the ball in the basket. Twelve different T-Birds have scored in double figures in at least one game this season.

“We’re at least two-deep at each position and that takes a lot of pressure off kids,” Gunnare said. “We’ve got a lot of talented kids who are capable of scoring points for us. So no doubt our biggest strength is our depth.”

The T-Birds are also one of the best-shooting teams in Region IX as they lead the sub-region in both field goal percentage (45.6) and 3-point field goal percentage (37.4). Casper College also is atop the sub-region in rebounding, assists and fewest turnovers per game.

Put it all together and Casper College is one of the surprise teams in the nation, although Gunnare had an idea this year’s team could be special.

“I didn’t know what to expect when we first got everybody on campus,” he said, “but once we got into the gym and started practicing I thought we had a chance to exceed expectations.”

Saturday, the T-Birds face a Western Wyoming team that has struggled this season, but Gunnare is making sure the T-Birds don’t overlook the Mustangs (5-20, 3-7).

“They’ve dealt with some injuries so they’re not at full strength,” he said. “But they still have some talented players and we just have to make sure we don’t let one or two players beat us.”

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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