The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team put five players in double figures as Jayla Owen scored 23 points in helping the Cougars to the 83-73 win Tuesday at Cougar Palace over Laramie County Community College, who came into the game with a 4-1 record.

WNCC coach Isaac Lu said they played OK against a talented LCCC squad.

“I thought we played really well,” Lu said. “We are finally getting back to the team that I know we are, getting up and pressing, sharing the ball offensively, and communicating and playing with great energy. It was great to see our team play well today and secure the victory over a really good Laramie County team. We had five players in double figures and we will continue to share the ball really well over the course of the season.”

The first half was a nail-biter as both teams scored 22 points in the first quarter and 14 points in the second quarter to go into the locker room knotted at 36-36. It was the start of the third quarter when WNCC went on a 19-0 run that opened the contest. Lu said that the third quarter was huge for the team.

“We set the tone to start that half. We told them in the locker room that we have to push the lead out,” he said. “We set the tone with our defensive pressure and full-court ball pressure. We were able to extend the lead there and push it out to give us a comfortable cushion there.”

The first half was a battle between the two teams that entered the contest with one loss each. WNCC took a 9-2 lead in the first quarter on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Rashaan Smith only to watch LCCC tie the game at 11 and then take a 20-15 lead.

WNCC came back to tie the game after the first 10 minutes as Yara Garcia had a 3-pointer and then a bucket and Mackenzie Joseph nailed a bucket.

The Cougars jumped out to a 26-22 lead to open the second quarter before LCCC took a 33-29 lead. WNCC came storming back as Joseph nailed a trey and Owen had a bucket for a 36-33 lead. LCCC tied the game at 36 on a 3-pointer by Monique Marcetic-Vaotangi.

LCCC came out in the third quarter and quickly nailed a trey from Michala Bork. That was when WNCC would hold the Golden Eagles scoreless for the six minutes as WNCC went on a 19-0 run that was highlighted by 12 points from Owen including a pair of 3-pointers, and five points from Ola Duda.

That run was highlighted by the defensive pressure as Owen got a steal and converted the bucket and then moments later Garcia got a steal and dished off to Owen for the 53-39 lead. WNCC led 55-39 before LCCC finally broke their cold shooting as Bork nailed a trey with 3:20 to play. Bork then hit another three to cut the lead to 55-45. Joseph answered with a trey, but Bork hit another 3-pointer. Owen closed out the quarter with a bucket and then nailed 1-of-3 free throws as she was fouled at the buzzer.

WNCC continued executing in the fourth quarter, jumping to a 66-48 lead and only let the Golden Eagles to single digits a couple times at nine points.

WNCC shot 48 percent from the field and were just 5-of-15 from beyond the arc. The Cougars were also just 18-of-30 from the charity stripe compared to LCCC who was just 7-of-12 from the stripe. LCCC buried eight treys.

LCCC won the rebound battle 44-36. Duda led WNCC with eight rebounds while Joseph and Shiho Isono each had six.

WNCC had five in double figures. After Owen’s 23 points, Joseph had 12, while Garcia, Duda and Isono each had 11 points.

WNCC, 3-1, will head to Casper, Wyoming for a weekend tournament where they will see two teams in the Top 15 when they face Salt Lake Community College and Casper College. Lu said they will get to work to prepare for this weekend’s contests.

“Those are two really good teams that we will play this week. Casper is number 11 or 10 and Salt Lake is number 15, so we will get back to work these next two days and be ready to play this weekend.

LCCC        22 14 12 25 – 73
WNCC        22 14 25 22 – 83
Halle Hester 18, Monique Marcetic-Vaotangi 15, Michala Bork 15, Kian Omer-Jones 12, Jamy de Kock 7, Courtney Rowley 5, Shannon Niles 1.
Jayla Owen 23, Mackenzie Joseph 12, Ola Duda 11, Shiho Isono 11, Yara Garcia 11, Rashaan Smith 9, Bre Fowler 4, Faith Walker 2.