Cougar notes: WNCC women advance to Final Four with win over South Plains
LUBBOCK, Texas – The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team put together one of the gutsiest second-half performances as they advanced to the NJCAA national tournament Final Four with a 63-51 win over South Plains College Saturday afternoon at the Rip Griffin Center on the campus of Lubbock Christian University.
WNCC, in getting the win, captured their 30th win of the season and moved to the Final Four for the first 2003. The last time the Cougars had 30 wins was 2015.
“It was obviously a great team win,” WNCC head coach Chad Gibney said. “We showed a lot of resilience there, having dug ourselves a hole. We just stayed with it. We were aggressive. We were tough. I am really proud of our group and excited to keep playing.”
A 13-0 run in the fourth quarter was the key as the Cougars overcame a 3-point deficit and led by 10 with three minutes to play.
Gibney said the fourth quarter play by his team was huge.
“I think we were able to increase the tempo of the game,” he said. “I think our defensive pressure really started to wear on them as well as our depth. We also put a lot of pressure on them with our dribble penetration. I thought we got into some good stuff with our guards getting down low.”
The win was definitely a gut-check victory as the Cougars were down 30-24 and had trouble rebounding and making shots.
The second half was a totally different story.
“Entering the game, our energy was low and we weren’t making smart choices,” Aminata Zie said. “We re-grouped in the locker room and came out with energy and played together in the second half.”
And a big reason for the shift in momentum was the way the Cougars were playing on defense.
“The defense was a key factor for this win and like every game,” Zie said. “Rebounding was very important to because we did not have size and physical advantages. We stepped up and made free throws, which was another key factor for this win.”
WNCC’s second half was one of a blue-collar worker as everyone, in some fashion, contributed in the win whether it was hitting big shots, making key free throws, getting a rebound, making a stop on defense, or cheering from the bench.
WNCC led 11-6 in the first quarter before South Plains went on a 12-0 run to close out the first 10 minutes and led 18-11.
South Plains pushed the lead to 13 points on back-to-back 3-pointers from Raija Todd and Ashala Moseberry. The Cougars sliced the deficit to seven, 27-20, on buckets by Shayane Poirot, Martrice Brooks, and Amani Brown. WNCC trailed at halftime 30-24.
The third quarter is when the Cougar defense went crazy, holding South Plains without a bucket for the first five minutes of the quarter. In the meantime, WNCC went on an 11-0 run behind an old-fashioned 3-point play by Zie and a trey from Payton Fields to lead 35-30.
It was short-lived as South Plains found some life and led 39-37 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter saw WNCC outscore South Plains 26-12. The Texans led 44-41 after a 3-pointer by Viktoria Ivanova. That was when the Cougars turned up the heat defensively, going on a 13-0 run that pushed the Cougars lead to 54-44.
The run was highlighted by some spirited plays, including old-fashioned 3-point plays by Fields and Brown as well as some clutch free throws during the stretch. Brown said that 13-0 run saw the energy level rise to extreme heights especially after the emotional 3-point plays.
“We just kept playing hard and more things started to happen,” Brown said. “That just makes our team.”
South Plains tried coming back but their shots wouldn’t fall and the Cougars gobbled up the defensive rebound or made hustling plays on defense. WNCC led 57-49 with 1:22 to play and the Cougars were clutch at the free throw lines as Zie and Poirot each made 1-of-2 and Fields and Shanti Henry converted two free throws to seal the win.
WNCC only shot 40 percent for the game from the field and were jut 27 percent from beyond the arc (3-of-11). The Cougars were 14-of-19 from the charity stripe.
South Plains shot 23 percent from the field and were 35 percent from beyond the arc, burying nine treys. The Texans were just 60 percent from the free throw line (12-OF-20).
WNCC had balanced scoring with three in double figures led by Fields with 13 followed by Ale’Jah Douglas and Zie with 12 points each. Brooks tallied nine and Brown had eight.
Zie had another double-double as she pitched in 14 rebounds in the win. Fields tallied nine boards and Brown had eight. Brown also had five assists.
The Final Four is set as only one team that received a bye is still alive. That is No. 3 Georgia Highlands who will face No. 23 Jones College in the second semifinal game at 6 p.m. Jones earned a 64-62 overtime win over No. 18 Eastern Florida State. The other semifinal has No. 12 WNCC against No. 17 Tyler Junior College at 3 p.m. MST. Tyler topped No. 8 Arizona Western 79-67.
The semifinal winners will meet in the championship game Monday evening.
South Plains 18 12 9 12 – 51
WNCC (30-2) 11 13 13 26 – 63
Celia Sumbane 4, Viktoria Ivanova 6, Raija Todd 10, Ashala Moseberry 11, Matilda Soderlund 10, Vitoria Carvalho 6, Martyna Czescik 4.
Ale’Jah Douglas 12, Amani Brown 8, Aminata Zie 12, Shanti Henry 2, Payton Fields 13, Martrice Brooks 9, Shayane Poirot 5, Mia Jaye Sarkodee Adoo 2.
WNCC baseball splits with Luna
LAS VEGAS, N.M. -- The Western Nebraska Community College Cougar baseball split with Luna Community College in an Empire Conference matchup on Saturday. The Cougars won the first 7-0 and was shutout in the second 7-0.
The first game saw WNCC get most of their runs across in the first inning, scoring six of their seven.
Max Adam got it going for the Cougars with an opening triple and was brought in by a Jack Jones single.
Eli Hernandez brought in Jones on a double, Joe Kinneberg singled to put runners on first and second for Drew Book. Book doubled to right field, bringing in Hernandez for a 3-0 lead.
With runners on second and third, Dillon Fabricus singled to score both. Adam brought in the final run of the inning for the Cougars with a two-out single.
The top of the second saw Jordan Rollins start with a walk before Hernandez brought Rollins in for the 7-0 lead.
WNCC outhit Luna 10-8. Adam went 2-for-2 with a triple, run scored, walk and an RBI while Hernandez finished 2-for-4 with a double, two RBIs and a run.
Dawson Hurford pitched the complete game, giving up eight hits, a walk and recorded five strikeouts.
The second game of the doubleheader went in a different direction. Neither team was able to get a run across until the bottom of the third when Luna scored on two straight hits to lead 2-0.
In the fourth, Rollins hit a double and advanced to third on the ground out by Dalton Nelson before Book was hit by a pitch, putting Cougars on the corners. Unfortunately, WNCC couldn’t get anything across.
Luna got two more runs across on an error in the bottom of the frame.
The Cougars also had runners on the corners in the sixth inning but couldn’t do anything with it. Luna scored two more runs to lead 6-0 in the bottom of the frame and with two outs, loaded the bases.
With the bases loaded, Luna would get one more to lead 7-0 before popping out to WNCC’s Joseph Toubeaux to end the inning.
Rollins went 1-for-2 with a double and a walk as Sergio Tarango came in for Kinneberg in the fifth inning, finishing 1-for-1.
Corbin Kirk pitched five innings, scattering five hits, four runs (one earned), one walk while striking out nine. Wyatt Zsidisin pitched the final inning, giving up two hits, three runs (none earned) and three walks.
The Cougars will finish the series against Luna Community College on Sunday with a doubleheader.
WNCC 610 000 0 -- 7 10 1
Luna 000 000 0 -- 0 8 1
WP- Dawson Hurford
2B - Drew Book, Eli Hernandez
3B - Max Adam
WNCC 000 000 0 -- 0 4 4
Luna 002 203 x -- 7 7 0
LP- Corbin Kirk
2B - Jordan Rollins
Star-Herald Sports Editor Bryanna Winner contributed to this story.
WNCC softball falls to Trinity Valley
ATHENS, Texas – The Western Nebraska Community College softball team finished up their Spring Break trip dropping a doubleheader to Trinity Valley Community College Saturday afternoon.
The first game saw the Cardinals earn the 6-0 win in a very competitive contest. The second game saw Trinity Valley score eight first-inning runs and after that, the Cougars played even with them despite falling 11-1.
The first game saw Trinity Valley score one in the first and then added five runs late.
WNCC had chances to score as they started the first as Victoria Wharton singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. But she was left stranded in scoring position.
The fourth inning had another chance to score as Macyn Hartman singled but was left on second base.
The fifth inning saw DemiRae Woolsey lead off by reaching after getting plunked by a pitch. Woolsey was left stranded at third base.
The sixth saw two runners get on base as Hartman singled followed by Taylor Klein earning a walk. Those two were stranded on the basepaths.
WNCC had just three hits in the contest. Hartman led the way with two singles while Wharton also had a single.
The second game saw the Cardinals score eight in the first and one in the second.
WNCC had a chance to score in the top of the first as Wharton and Klein each singled, but they were left stranded in scoring position.
The second inning saw Woolsey lead off with a double, but she couldn’t get around to score.
WNCC finally got on the scoreboard with a single run in the third as Wharton had a single and scored on a Lexi Butterfield double.
WNCC had six hits in the game. Wharton led the way with two hits with a run scored. Butterfield had a double with a RBI while Woolsey had a double as well.
WNCC will be back in action next weekend when they have their first home games of the season on March 26 and 27 hosting Trinidad State College at Volunteer Field. Saturday’s doubleheader start at 1 p.m. while Sunday twinbill begins at 11 a.m.
WNCC 000 000 0 – 0 3 2
T. Valley 100 311 x – 6 5 0
LP – Katie McMillan.
WNCC 001 00 – 1 6 2
T. Valley 812 0x – 11 12 0
LP – DesaRaw Woolsey.
2B – Lexi Butterfield, DemiRae Woolsey.