Biko Johnson’s two free throws with 1.1 seconds left was enough to give the Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team an 87-86 win over North Platte Community College in a first-round Region IX tournament game Saturday afternoon at Cougar Palace.

                The win moves the Cougars to 16-14 on the season but more importantly advances WNCC to the bracket play of the Region IX tournament next week in Casper, Wyoming. North Platte ends their season at 14-16.

                WNCC head coach Billy Engel said this was a game that he is proud of how his team never gave up in the final two minutes to get the win.

                “We really fought and really battled. I thought we did some really good things offensively,” Engel said. “But, in the first half to give up 49 points and 60 percent from the field goal percentage, I was a little disappointed at halftime. We really responded in the second half. We definitely stepped it up defensively in the second half.
                After falling to North Platte and Northeastern Junior College last week in games they could have one, the way the Cougars won Saturday afternoon was key as they never gave up in the final two minutes of the game to steal the win.

                “We continued to battle and continued to fight,” Engel said. “We get a 10-point lead and we give it up and all of a sudden we are losing with two minutes to go. Nobody freaked out or hung their head or started to sulk or said it was me. Everybody stayed bought in and got some extra possessions. I am really proud of them for that. It was a huge key to maintain poise and composure down the stretch. We wrote on the board before the game ‘whatever it takes.’ You have to do whatever it take to get the job done. Down the stretch that is what we did.”

                This first-round playoff game to decide who went on to have a chance at a regional title was a nip-and-tuck with both teams having 10-point leads only to watch the other team come back. There were 11 lead changes and 10 ties in the contest.

                North Platte started hot as they ran to a 14-2 lead and led 20-11 before WNCC started to make a comeback. The Cougars trailed 26-21 after Josh Townley-Thomas hit a bucket for North Platte. WNCC responded on a 9-0 run behind seven points from Carl Thorpe and a bucket by Daniel Bula to take a 30-26 lead.

                WNCC led 41-37 and led 46-44 on an Enzo Clouvel-Urie steal and bucket with under a minute to play in the half. North Platte kept going as Antwone Gonzales hit a trey and then Davion Evans hit for a field goal at the buzzer to give the Knights a 49-46 lead at halftime.

                The start of the second half was a good start for WNCC as WNCC opened with nine straight points on back-to-back 3-pointers from CJ Johnson and Zach O’Callaghan. The Cougars led 64-55 on a mini 5-0 run and led by 10 points, 67-57, on a Bula trey with 10:55 to play.

                North Platte didn’t fold as the Knights came storming back to grab a 71-69 lead on a dunk by Gonzales and a four points from Ramiah Adedigba.

                North Platte led 77-71 on back-to-back treys from Gonzales and Adedigba. WNCC came storming back with a 9-0 run that saw O’Callaghan score five points for an 80-77 lead with just over two minutes to play.

                From there, the final three minutes was a nail-biter. WNCC led 83-79 on a Bula 3-pointer with 1:42 to play. North Platte came back to take an 84-83 lead on back-to-back treys from Kayden Crosby and Gonzales with 56 seconds to play.

                WNCC retook the lead on two Biko Johnson charity tosses with 44.7 seconds left. Crosby put the Knights back in front with 17.4 seconds to play. WNCC turned the ball over and the Knights missed a crucial front-end of a one-and-one with 6.7 seconds to play. WNCC called a time out with six seconds to play to set up the final play. Biko Johnson got the ball and drove the middle and went up for a shot and was fouled with 1.1 seconds. Biko Johnson nailed both charity tosses. North Platte had a chance to win the game at the end as a halfcourt shot was online to go in, but didn’t fall as WNCC snuck out of Cougar Palace with the win.

                Both teams shot about the same in the contest. WNCC was 48 percent from the field while North Platte was 51 percent. North Platte buried 11 3-pointers to WNCC’s nine treys. It was the free throw line where the game was won as North Platte went 11-of-18 while WNCC was 16-of-20.

                WNCC committed just five turnovers in the contest compared to 14 for North Platte. The Knights won the rebounding battle 42-28.

                WNCC had four players in double figures. Biko Johnson led all scorers with 30 points, including going 11-of-15 from the charity strip. Johnson also had a double-double with 11 rebounds.

                Bula tallied 20 points with four 3-pointers, while Thorpe had 18 points and O’Callaghan had 10 points.

                WNCC will now play in the quarterfinals of the Region IX tournament on Thursday in Casper, Wyoming.

N. Platte               49 37 – 86

WNCC                   46 41 – 87

Davion Evans 9, Ramiah Adedigba 24, Antwone Gonzales 22, Kayden Crosby 13, Bruce Carpenter 11, Aleksa Rudic 5, Josh Townley-Thomas 2.
CJ Johnson 7, Biko Johnson 30, Carl Thorpe 18, Daniel Bula 20, Enzo Clouvel-Urie 2, Zach O’Callaghan 10.

WNCC softball falls at Highland CC

               HIGHLAND, Kan. – The Western Nebraska Community College softball team battled, but ended up dropping a pair of games Saturday afternoon to Highland Community College in Highland, Kansas.

                The first game was dramatic as Highland had a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to get the 6-5 win as both teams finished with eight hits.

                The second game saw the Cougars control the game until Highland scored nine times in the fifth inning to end the contest 13-4 in five innings.

                The first game was a battle as WNCC led early before surrendering three late runs in the loss.

                The Cougars plated three in the first inning and the runs all started with two outs. Avery Fox started things with a 2-out single followed by a single by Morgan Dustin. DemiRae Woolsey then earned a walk to load the bases. All three baserunners would score on a Sianna Lewis double for the 3-0 lead.

                Highland came back to score three in the bottom of the first, only to see the Cougars respond with two in the top of the second. Baylie Krueger led off with a walk and scored on a bunt by Devyn Priselac resulted in an error and the speedy Priselac was standing on third base. Priselac scored on a pop out by Chloe Cronquist for the 5-3 led.

                WNCC kept the lead until the fifth with Highland scored two with two outs to tie things at 5-5. Highland then won the game on a 2-out single.

                WNCC was led at the plate by Lewis, who went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. Chloe Cronquist also had a pair of hits including a double and an RBI.

                The second game started off well for WNCC. Highland took a 1-0 lead in the first only to watch WNCC plate a run in the second to tie the game as Woolsey had a lead-off solo home run.

                The score stayed that way until the fourth with WNCC scored four times to take a 4-1 lead. Krueger started things with a walk. Cronquist then had a 2-out single to score Krueger with the go-ahead run. Cronquist came around to score on a Victoria Wharton double and Wharton later scored on a passed ball.

                Highland came right back and tied the game in the bottom of the fourth with three runs.

                The Scotties put the game away in the fifth on just three hits as they scored nine times for the win.

                WNCC finished the game with six hits with six different players getting a hit. Wharton had a double in the contest while Woolsey had a home run.

                WNCC and Highland will play another doubleheader on Sunday. The Cougars will then open conference play next weekend when they play a 3-game series at Lamar Community College on Saturday and Sunday.


First Game

WNCC                   320 000 0 – 5 8 0
Highland              300 020 1 – 6 8 2

LP – DesaRae Woolsey.

2B – Sianna Lewis, Chloe Cronquist.


Second Game

WNCC                   010 30 – 4 6 2

Highland              100 39 – 13 9 1

LP – Avery Fox.

2B – Victoria Wharton.

HR – DemiRae Woolsey.