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Casper College Womens Basketball

Casper College's Jaye Johnson prepares to drive to the basket during the T-Birds' game against Gillette College on Feb. 6 at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.

The last time the Casper College women’s basketball team faced Eastern Wyoming College, the Thunderbirds went on the offensive. The T-Birds made 24 of 47 3-pointers in rolling to a 103-69 victory on Jan. 23 in Torrington.

Obviously, Casper College head coach Dwight Gunnare doesn’t expect that kind of a shooting display when the two teams play again Wednesday at Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym.

“For us to expect to make 24 3-pointers again in a game is not going to happen,” he said.

While Gunnare knows that kind of offensive explosion is a rare occurrence, he also knows his team doesn’t need that kind of a performance to win games.

The T-Birds (21-5, 10-0 Region IX North) have all but wrapped up the sub-region title as they lead Eastern Wyoming and Gillette College by three games with just four regular-season games remaining.

Casper College does have offensive firepower — the T-Birds are averaging 73.4 points per game — but for the most part it’s been a lockdown defense that has lifted it to the top of the league. The T-Birds are allowing just 57.9 points per game and teams are shooting just 33.7 percent from the field against them.

“It comes down to effort,” Gunnare said. “I get a lot of compliments on how hard this team plays and that says a lot about this group.

“Playing defense is not the most fun part of the game, but it is the most important.”

It has definitely worked for the T-Birds, who have limited opponents to 60 points or less 14 times this season.

“Even when our shots aren’t falling we know if we play good defense we’ll have a chance,” Gunnare said.

The T-Birds are also out-rebounding opponents by an average of 10.5 boards per game.

“If we can rebound the basketball it doesn’t allow the other team to get extra possessions,” Gunnare added. “These are all things that not only help at our level, but are things that (four-year) college coaches are looking at in recruiting.”

That defense figures to be tested against Eastern Wyoming (20-6, 7-3), which leads the sub-region in scoring at 81.2 points per game.

“We have to contain the dribble,” Gunnare said. “We can’t allow them to penetrate and get into the lane. We have to make them work.”

That’s something the T-Birds have been doing all season on both sides of the ball.

Four players, led by Lucie Hoskova’s 15.7 points per game, are averaging double-digit points. Jaye Johnson (Natrona County) adds 11.6, Maggie Justinak (Rock Springs) 10.4 and Nerea Baena 10.0. And Raquel Ferrer-Bernad and Bailey Johnson average a combined 15.2 points per game.

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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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