T-Bird Men sweep season series with BSC, Women fall
By Mark Laducer, for United Tribes News
Duke and North Carolina, Red Sox and Yankees, Auburn and Alabama. Some of sports’ biggest rivalries where opponents are practically just a few miles apart from each other.
But don’t tell Pete Conway and his United Tribes men’s basketball team that their cross-town foe is any less a rivalry than ones that get national attention.
The UTTC men’s Thunderbirds knocked off the Bismarck State Mystics for the second time this season, 121-114, overcoming an early 10-point deficit in front of a near-capacity crowd in the “Thunderdome.”
“We really needed this win,” said UTTC men’s head coach Pete Conway. “We lost five in a row before this game and to come out on top was really important.”
Conway and his players were feeling excited in the days leading up to the first game against BSC just over a month ago. He said his players didn’t know what to expect the first time on the Mystics’ home court. The Thunderbirds held-out for a 100-99 victory.
“I told them not every junior college in the nation has a cross-town rivalry like this, and they’re pretty fortunate to play in a game like that,” Conway added.
The second game on Feb. 15, against BSC was no different. After getting a taste of the excitement and electricity of the first game against BSC, Conway’s players couldn’t wait to play them again. In the days leading up to the second match-up, their practices were filled with more energy than he has seen all year.
“It’s a good feeling,” said freshman forward Antwan Antonio. “Coach said if we beat BSC twice in a season and lose the rest of our games, then it’s a good season.”
Antonio had a game-high 42 points, a career milestone for him. He went 15 of 28 from the field, including 6 for 9 from beyond the arc, and 6 for 6 from the free throw line.
Antwan Antonio (30) scored a game-high and career-high 42 points at home against BSC
UTTC shot 45 percent from the field overall, keeping pace with their 100 plus points per game average.
“I was open a lot. I just took advantage of it,” Antonio said.” I was really excited for the game. But then I was kind of nervous, big game, big crowd. I just took care of things.”
Both Conway and Antonio mentioned the pre-game festivities, including a pep rally held in the afternoon.
“It was really exciting to see all the kids and fans come out to support us and love us,” said Antonio.
Xavier Norris finished with 19 points for the Thunderbirds, Amaury Mathews added 15, Tommy Williams 14, and Bearpaw Mosley contributed with eight.
In the women’s game, the T-Birds could not overcome an early double digit deficit of their own, falling to the Mystics, 114-106.
Leading the charge for UTTC was McKayla Peltier. She had a team-high 28 points, followed by Ramie Decoteau with 25.
Early in the contest, the Thunderbirds gave up a lot of easy lay-ups and couldn’t contain the Mystics’ three-headed monster: Nicole Bunting, Cassidy Wilhelm and Syann Golus. The trio combined for 13 three-pointers alone, as that seemed to be BSC’s go-to play throughout the game, taking a total of 52 shots from beyond the arc.
UTTC’s McKayla Peltier finished with 28 points.
“We were really excited for this game,” said T-Birds head coach Kelsey Peltier. “They had a pep rally for us and it felt really good to be supported like that. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a win out of it.”
After giving up a hand-full of easy buckets in the first half, UTTC tightened up on defense and knotted the game up at 53, with 1:07 left to play in the first half after Shelby Greeley’s only 3-pointer of the game. But BSC closed out the half with a 6-2 run to give them a 59-55 lead.
“We came out in the beginning with a zone press, but it went a little bit shaky for us because some didn’t know the rotations, so we switched it up. Then we started playing [one-on-one] and we slowly started getting back into it.”
Peltier said she was proud with her girls and how they performed overall. She liked the energy they brought despite being down most of the game and being physically and emotionally drained.
“Fatigue was a big factor for us. We had to fight our way back throughout the night. And it seems like when we get physically tired, we get mentally tired,” Peltier added. “BSC is a pretty tough team, and extremely disciplined. But for us to come back made me very happy.”
The lady Thunderbird’s 106 points was a season best for them. They shot 47 percent from the field overall, going 4 of 11 from downtown and 8 of 9 from the stripe.
Both the women and men’s teams travel to Devils Lake on Feb. 19, to play Lake Region before hosting Williston State College on Feb. 23, in the regular season finale. Men's currently stand at 15 - 11 for the season while the women are 9 - 12.
United Tribes News photos DENNIS J. NEUMANN (see more below)
Coach Pete Conway in the UTTC huddle.
Jessica Starr lines up a three; she scored 22 on the night.