The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team had three players in double figures and rolled to an 88-74 South Sub-region victory over North Platte Community College Tuesday night at Cougar Palace.

                The win was the Cougars 20th victory of the season but more importantly kept the Cougars in the hunt to win the South sub-region as they moved to 9-1 in conference play. WNCC, who have won nine straight, is a half game in front of Trinidad State, who sits at 8-1.

                WNCC and Trinidad State will battle Friday evening in Trinidad, Colorado, with the winner in the driver’s seat to host the Region IX tournament in mid-March.

                JJ Harris, who finished with 15 points along with Travis Easterly, Jr., said the team played OK with a couple of hiccups in the game.

                “We played well. We came out and executed the game plan,” Harris said. “There were a few nicks in the early part in rebounding the ball, but, for the most part, we did what we needed to do.”

                Ealy on it was a back-and-forth contest and WNCC led 17-14. It was at that point that that Cougars found their groove and went on an 11-0 run to lead 28-14 on a 3-pointer by Maurice Walker and back-to-back buckets by Easterly, Jr. WNCC later went on a 13-0 run to lead 44-20 on three straight buckets by Stephen Ovia. One of Ovia’s buckets came after Elijah Burney sailed in the air by the sideline and threw the ball back to Ovia who dunked the ball. WNCC led 48-27 at halftime.

                Harris said those runs in the first half were because the Cougars started to really execute on the court.

                “Like Coach Billy (Engel) said, most teams aren’t going to give us a chance and we capitalized and took advantage of their mistakes,” he said. “You have to take advantage of their mistakes and take them out (of the game).”

                Harris said that this team is playing well right now. The win was the Cougars 20th of the season and the last time the Cougars had 20 wins in a season was 2019.

                “It feels good, and it all starts with the man above,” Harris said. “It all starts with God. We started off shaky at the beginning of the season, dropped a couple of games that we weren’t supposed to drop, but we stayed in it and stayed together.”

                The second half saw the Cougars run to their biggest lead of the night at 25 points at 69-44 and during that stretch, Harris buried two 3-pointers and Kayden Nation and Anthony Simo each had one triple.

                After that, though, WNCC started to struggle shooting as North Platte made a run in getting the lead down to 20 points at 71-51. The Knights then went on a 19-11 run that saw the Cougars lead shrink to 12 points after a 3-pointer by Efrain Kouame-Palm. WNCC came back as Danilo Glisovic hit a bucket to make it 84-70. North Platte made it a 10-point game at 84-74 with 13.8 seconds to play, but two free throws by Daniel Bula and a dunk by Junior Galicia made the score 88-74 at the final buzzer.

                WNCC shot 57 percent from the field compared to 35 percent for North Platte. The Cougars also buried 11 3-pointers, including four from Harris and two from Walker, compared to six for North Platte. The Knights enjoyed the free throw battle as they buried 18-of-29 while WNCC was just 9-of-13 from the charity stripe.

                WNCC won the rebound battle 45-40. Bula pulled down six rebounds while Burney and Easterly, Jr., each had five.

                WNCC had three in double figures with Harris and Easterly, Jr., each with 15 along with Ovia with 10 points.

                WNCC will have two more regular season games left and Friday night is the big one against

a talented Trinidad State squad with the winner more than likely will be hosting regionals. Harris said they realize how big of a game it is.

                “That is one of the biggest games of the year,” he said. “We have to stay playing like this and continue to execute what the coaches are saying in practice and in games. Preparation is key in playing basketball.”

North Platte                      27 47 – 74

WNCC (20-8)                    48 40 – 88

NORTH PLATTE

Davion Evans 11, Efrain Kouame-Palm 5, Parker Baumann 17, Landon Broer 9, Bryce Baez 6, Jesper Hallberg 9, Emmanuel Oladeru 8, Michael Cooper 2, Alessandro Perotti 7.

WNCC

JJ Harris 15, Maurice Walker 8, Junior Galicia 6, Anthony Simo 7, Danilo Glisovic 4, Willie Wilson 4, Travis Easterly, Jr., 15, Stephen Ovia 10, Elijah Burney 7, Daniel Bula 5, Kayden Nation 7.

WNCC women top North Platte 68-63

                The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team received 15 points from Gal-La Font and 14 from Mackenzie Joseph in picking up their 22nd win of the season with a 68-63 win over North Platte Community College Tuesday night at Cougar Palace.

                The win moves the Cougars to 22-6 on the season with just two regular season games left. WNCC will host Lamar Community College on Tuesday in sophomore recognition night before wrapping up the regular season with a road game at Trinidad State College on March 2.

                Laura Montiel, who had four steals to give her 100 on the season and only one of 11 Cougars to record 100 steals, said the team needed the win to get back on track of winning.

                “We pushed through the intensity of the game and got the win,” the freshman from Spain said. “It’s nice to get back on track after getting a few losses this semester.”

                The big key in the contest was staying together and the Cougars had balanced scoring with three in double figures. Font led the team with 15 points along with six rebounds followed by Joseph with 14 points and seven rebounds. Ebere Egbirika finished with 10 points.

                Montiel said the reason for the win was “playing together, playing good defense, and staying solid until the end of the game.”

                The first quarter was close as North Platte had a 15-13 lead late on a Emily Johnson bucket. Helena Kuck finished the scoring in the first 10 minutes with a 3-pointer for the 16-15 lead.

                WNCC started the second quarter by leading 22-17, and later 27-24 on a Adelina Urtane triple. North Platte came back to grab a 28-26 lead. The Cougars closed out the half on a 7-1 run, including a triple from Amiyah Donaldson for a 34-29 lead at intermission.

                WNCC came out of the locker room in the second half by outscoring the Knights 21-14 and led 44-35 on a Font bucket. WNCC continued playing well in the third quarter as they had a 9-0 run that saw Montiel record her fourth steal of the game for a 53-37 lead. WNCC led 55-43 after three.

                The fourth quarter was a reversal as North Platte outscored WNCC 20-13. WNCC made the opening bucket on a Egbirika field goal. After that, North Platte outscored WNCC 13-2 to slice a 14-point deficit down to just three points when Mariah Gardner buried a 3-pointer. With about five minutes to play.

                WNCC answered with a bucket by Joseph and then a 3-pointer by Font with 3:26 to play for a 64-56 lead. North Platte continued playing tough as they held WNCC scoreless for nearly three minutes as they made it a one-point game at 64-63 on a bucket by Kateria Gooden with 30 seconds to play. WNCC got two free throws each from Donaldson and Joseph to seal the win at 68-63.

                WNCC shot 38 percent for the game while burying seven 3-pointers. WNCC was 13-of-17 from the free throw line. North Platte shot 49 percent from the field and buried five 3-pointers. The Knights were just 2-of-4 from the charity stripe.

North Platte      15 14 14 20 – 63

WNCC                 16 18 21 13 – 68

NORTH PLATTE

Nariah Golden 7, Nevaeh Golden 6, Kateria Gooden 4, Dazjanae Greene 13, Jada Thompson 1, Reece Halley 10, Jada Grigsby 8, Mariah Gardner 4, Emily Johnson 4, Samantha Riggles 6.

WNCC

Amiyah Donaldson 7, Ebere Egbirika 10, Helena Kuck 7, Gal-La Font 15, Laura Montiel 8, Mackenzie Joseph 14, Adelina Urtane 7.