Merle Wiehl poured in 32 points and the Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team earned a convincing 101-56 over Northwest College in the Cougar’s home opener Wednesday night at Cougar Palace.
The win moves the Cougars to 3-2 on the season.
“It is always exciting to be back at home after being on the road for such a long time,” women’s basketball coach Chad Gibney said. “You can never complain about a 40-point win. Obviously, there are things that we will stress and continue to work on, but I am pleased with our first home performance.”
The early going, however, probably was because of nerves. But once the team settled in, they played in a groove.
“There is always some nervous playing in front of the home crowd for the first time,” Gibney said. “I think one of our strengths this year is our depth and so we can wear people down throughout the course of the game.”
It was an opening night where the Cougars shot 56 percent from the field, including popping home 14 3-pointers. More impressively, the Cougars were 17 of 20 from the free throw line.
Gibney said it was truly a team effort with several players contributing at different times.
“We had a number of people step up when we needed a play to be made,” he said. “I thought Taylor [Joplin[ got us going early. Then I thought T [Tishara Morehouse] and M [Merle Wiehl] chipped in with some scoring. The reality is, it is a team effort. We had a whole team of people that gave us good performances tonight.”
Taylor Joplin opened the game scoring the first eight points for the Cougars as the Cougars raced to a 19-9 lead. Northwest cut the lead to 19-12 before a bucket by Yuliyana Valcheva gave the Cougars a 21-12 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter saw Tishara Morehouse and Valcheva take over as the Cougars went up 36-18 behind a 3-pointer by Wiehl and a bucket by Morehouse. Later, Joplin nailed a trey and Wiehl capped off the half with a 3-pointer for a 45-26 lead.
The second half saw the Cougars outscore the Trappers 56-30, including scoring 30 in the third quarter. The third quarter saw several mini-runs, including an 11-0 run that was highlighted by Morehouse’s five points and Wiehl’s four points. Later, WNCC went on a 9-0 run behind a 3-pointer by Allysah Boothe trey and a 68-33 lead. WNCC led 75-43 after three quarters.
Any hope of a Trapper comeback was silenced in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter as Wiehl, the sophomore from Germany ripped off 13 straight points for a 90-46 lead with 5:46 to play. WNCC hit the century mark for the first time with under a minute to play on an R’Manie Pulling 3-pointer from the corner.
The Cougars had seven different players hit a 3-pointer on the night. Wiehl buried six, while Joplin had two along with Boothe. Morehouse, Kolby Underwood, Anyssia Gibbs, and Pulling each had one trey.
Four Cougars hit double digits. Behind Wiehl’s 32 points, Morehouse tallied 19 from the bench, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe. Joplin and Valcheva each had 13 points.
Northwest didn’t have anyone in double digits. Juliana Ribeiro and Berkley Larsen each had nine points, while Selena Cudney, Jenna Lohrenz, and Melissa Martinez each had seven.
While the offense was clicking, the defense started to pick up as well. WNCC held Northwest to 30 percent shooting, including holding them to just five 3-pointers. The Cougars forced 23 Trapper turnovers while getting five blocked shots. Eva Langton and Valcheva each had two blocks.
Northwest (1-6) 12 14 17 13 – 56
WNCC (3-2) 21 24 30 26 – 101
Kaylee Brown 3, Juliana Ribeiro 9, Shelby Wardell 6, Melissa Martinez 7, Tayla Sayer 2, Tess Henry 6, Jenna Lohrenz 7, Selena Cudney 7, Berkley Larsen 9.
Tishara Morehouse 19, Merle Wiehl 32, Allysah Boothe 6, Andrijana Reljic 4, Kolby Underwood 4, Anyssia Gibbs 5, R’Manie Pulling 5, Yuliyana Valcheva 13, Taylor Joplin 13.