It was a battle to the final seconds in the Region IX women’s basketball tournament championship game Saturday afternoon at Cougar Palace as the No. 15 Casper College Thunderbirds battled the Western Wyoming Community College Mustangs.

                In the end it was the Thunderbirds that hit two free throws by Sandra Frau-Garcia with 7.2 and 0.6 seconds to play to give Casper the 62-60 win and their fourth regional title in six years over the Mustangs.

                The win sends Casper to the NJCAA National Tournament in Lubbock, Texas, March 22-27 while Western Wyoming ends their season. The last time Western Wyoming was in the championship was 2014 when they finished runner-up and the last time the Mustangs won a regional title was in back-to-back years in 1980 and 1981.

                Saturday’s game was a battle. Casper led 6-0 to start only to watch Western Wyoming score 11 straight for an 11-6 lead. Casper ended the quarter on back-to-back treys by Joslin Igo for a 17-15 lead after one.

                The second quarter saw Casper outscore Western Wyoming 16-8 as Casper pushed the lead to 29-19 on a Julia Palomo trey and led 33-23 at halftime.

                The third quarter saw Casper lead 41-33 on a Palomo trey. Western Wyoming fought back as they sliced the lead to 41-39 with a Kayde Strauss and got to within a point, 45-44 on a Strauss old-fashioned 3-point play. Casper hit a late bucket to lead 47-44 at the end of three periods.

                The fourth quarter saw Casper lead by 10 points on an Ana Csenyi bucket, but the Mustangs fought back, tying the game at 56-56 with 2:22 to play on a Strauss 3-pointer. Casper’s Logann Alver answered with a bucket for Casper for a 58-56 lead. Emma Patik tied the game at 58 with 48 seconds to play. Alver came down and got a bucket for a Casper 60-58 lead with 32.3 seconds left.

                Western Wyoming responded back as Kayla Thornton field goal with 21.1 to play tied the game at 60-60 with overtime in site. Casper was playing for the last shot, but Western Wyoming fouled with 12 seconds. But, because the Mustangs were not in the bonus yet, Casper inbounded the ball from the sidelines. Casper was fouled with 7.2 seconds as Frau-Garcia made just one of two.

                Western Wyoming had a chance for a chance to take the lead or win the game as they inbounded the ball with 6.7 seconds, but strong defense by Casper forced a turnover and Western fouled. Frau-Garcia made one of two free throws with .6 seconds and that was enough for the win.

                Casper had three players in double figures. Alver and Igo each had 15 points while Palomo had 13.

                Western Wyoming had three in double digits as well, led by Thornton with 18 followed by Strauss with 17 and Patik with 12.

                After the game, medals and awards were handed out. The 16-team All-tournament was announced and four players from Casper and Western Wyoming were each on the team. Those from Casper on the team included Frau-Garcia, Palomo, Alvar, and Goed. Those from Western Wyoming included Strauss, Thornton, Ashelynn Birch, and Tamryn Blom.

                Other members of the All-Tournament team included WNCC’s Mackenzie Joseph, Northwest’s Kamber Good Luck, NJC’s Bailee Hart, Otero’s Hedde Kohne, Trinidad State’s Mya Williams and Yie Exposito-Perez, and Laramie County’s Monique Marcetic-Vaotangi and Halle Hester.

                The All-Region and All-defensive teams were also announced.

                Those on the south included WNCC’s Jayla Owen, Shiho Isono, and Ola Duda; McCook’s Taryn Lindsey and Vanessa Jurewicz; NJC’s Saneya Martinez; Otero’s Kohne, Katia Nekic, and Gia Bradley; and Trinidad’s Exposito-Perez.

                North All-Region players included Casper’s Igo and Frau-Garcia; Western Wyoming’s Thornton and Strauss; EWC’s Ines Gnahore; Northwest’s Roxanne Rogers and Darla Hernandez; and LCCC’s Hester, Jamy de Kock, and Lylah Spring.

                The South All-defensive team included WNCC’s Yara Garcia, Trinidad’s Williams, Otero’s Kone, NJC’s Jailyn Potts, and McCook’s Gemma Gruettner Bacoul.

                The North All-defensive team included Casper’s Palomo, Western Wyoming’s Thornton, EWC’s Neylan Vila Delicado, LCCC’s Spring, and Northwest’s Hernandez.

                The North coach of the year was Casper’s Dwight Gunnare and the South coach of the year was Isaac Lu.

Casper                  17 16 14 15 – 62
W. Wyoming      15 8 23 16 – 60

Celina Arnlund 2, Logann Alver 15, Flora Goed 4, Sandra Frau-Garcia 9, Julia Palomo 13, Ana Csenyi 4. Joslin Igo 15.

Kayde Strauss 17, Emma Patik 12, Hannah Harris 2, Ashelynn Birch 5, Kayla Thornton 18, Tamryn Blom 4, Tayana Crowder 2.

Plorin hits two home runs, WNCC softball takes two from Lamar

                LAMAR, Colo. – The Western Nebraska Community College softball received two home runs from Arianah Plorin and one home run from Morgan Dustin in registering a conference doubleheader win over Lamar Community College Saturday in Lamar, Colorado.

                Game one saw the Cougars plate six runs in the second inning while pounding out 10 hits in the 10-2 win.

Game two saw Plorin slap two home runs and the Cougars pounded out 12 hits and scored 16 times in the 16-8, five-inning win.

                Plorin said the team stayed together to get the two important conference, which also snapped a 10-game losing streak.

                “Everyone had a lot of heart and hustle,” Plorin, the sophomore from Casper, Wyoming, said. “These two wins set the tone for Cougar softball for the rest of the conference.”

                The two wins were a good team effort as WNCC scored runs and the defense kept runs in check from Lamar.

                “Everyone did their part individually and as a team,” she said. “There is still for improvement, but we all came together and got the job done.”

                Game one started out as both teams scored a run. Lamar plated one but WNCC answered in the bottom of the first as Devyn Priselac reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on another error to tie the game.

                Lamar went up 2-1 with a run in the second, but WNCC answered with six runs in the second for a 7-2 lead. The inning started as DemiRae Woolsey led off with a solo home run. Erin Hurst followed with a one-out single and scored on a 2-out Victoria Wharton single. Priselac and Avery Fox followed with singles and then Dustin got a 3-run home run for the 7-2 lead.

                Neither team scored in the third, but WNCC plated one in the fourth as Wharton led off with a single and game in to score on a Fox single.

                WNCC put the game away with two in the fifth. Sianna Lewis led off with a single followed by a double by Woolsey. Both runners came in to score to end the game on the 8-run rule.

                WNCC pounded out 10 hits in the contest with three players registering multiple hits. Wharton was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, while Fox went 2-for-2 with a run scored. Woolsey went 2-for-3 with double, home run, two runs scored, and two RBIs.

                Fox picked up the pitching win, allowing five hits while striking out two and not walking a batter.

                The second game saw the Cougars score 16 times on 12 hits in the 8-run-rule contest. Lamar started things with three runs in the first inning only to watch the Cougars plate 10 runs in the bottom of the first on six hits. WNCC scored nine of their runs with two outs. The big hits included back-to-back run-scoring doubles from Priselac and Fox for the 10-3 lead.

                Lamar scored two more runs in the top of the second to cut the deficit in half, but WNCC put up another run with a lead-off home run off the bat of Plorin for the 11-5 lead.

                Lamar answered in the top of third to make it 11-6 and then held WNCC scoreless in the bottom of the third. The Lopes added two more runs in the top of the fourth to make it 11-8.

                WNCC picked up the offense in the bottom of the fourth with four runs. Plorin started the offensive rally with another solo home run. Dustin then scored two more runs with a double to make it 15-8.

                WNCC ended the game via the 8-run-rule in the bottom of the fifth as DemiRae Woolsey was hit by a pitch and came around to score on a Plorin single for the game-ending run.

                Plorin led the Cougars at the plate with a 3-for-3 day with two RBIs, three runs scored, and two home runs. Wharton, Dustin, and Lewis all had two hits as well. Wharton had three runs scored with an RBI, while Dustin had a double with two RBIs.

                DesaRae Woolsey picked up the win going three innings in allowing five hits, five runs, and walking two. Caley Leslie pitched two innings in allowing five hits and three runs.

                WNCC, 2-10 overall and 2-0 in conference play, will be back in action Sunday with a single game with Lamar down in Lamar, Colorado.

Game 1

Lamar                    110 00 – 2 5 4
WNCC                   160 12 – 10 10 4

WP – Avery Fox.

2B – DemiRae Woolsey.

HR – Morgan Dustin, DemiRae Woolsey.

Game 2
Lamar                    321 20 – 8 10 6

WNCC                   (10)10 41 – 16 12 1

WP – DesaRae Woolsey.

2B – Devyn Priselac, Avery Fox, Morgan Dustin.

HR – Arianah Plorin.