A trip back to the Region IX championship is officially set for the Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team.
The 21st-ranked Cougars led wire-to-wire against Eastern Wyoming College, registering a 91-65 win in the semi-final round to advance to the title game where they will face Casper College. Casper hung on to top Northeastern Junior College 74-72 to face the Cougars in the championship Saturday at 5 p.m.
WNCC, 28-3, will be making their third straight trip to the title game. WNCC won the championship in 2017 at Cougar Palace over Eastern Wyoming before falling to Casper last year in Casper 85-75.
“We are excited to be able to move on to the championship game,” WNCC head coach Chad Gibney said. “Excited to play a very talented and well coached Casper team. It should be a great game and we’d love to see everyone out at the Palace. We’ve got to continue to play the same way we’ve played all year. Hopefully we can dictate the pace and play the style we want to play.”
WNCC earned the trip with a quick start and then withstood one EWC rally in the second quarter to pick up the win.
“We did a nice job of jumping out on them early,” Gibney said. “We then responded after they went on their run.”
WNCC, just like they did in the quarterfinal game on Thursday against Sheridan, buried three early treys, two from Taylor Joplin and one from Merle Wiehl to lead 13-3. WNCC pushed the lead to 23-6 after a trey from Eva Langton and back-to-back buckets by R’Manie Pulling. WNCC led 31-16 after the first quarter.
The Lancers fought back in the second quarter, going on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to six, 31-25. WNCC regained the momentum after EWC head coach Tom Andersen was charged with two technical fouls and ejected. WNCC outscored EWC 22-4 to finish the half to grab a 53-29 lead into the lockerroom.
WNCC never looked back in the second half, outscoring EWC 27-17 in the third to lead 80-46. EWC outscored the Cougars in the fourth period 19-11.
Ten Cougars hit the scoring column on the night with five in double figures.
Joplin led the way with 16 points while connecting on four 3-pointers. Wiehl followed with 13 points and three treys, while Pulling and Tishara Morehouse each had 12 points. Allysah Boothe chipped in 11 points.
Freshman Yuliyana Valcheva finished with a game-high 18 rebounds as the Cougars held a 52-41 rebounds advantage.
WNCC buried 13 treys in the contest and dished off 27 assists. Morehouse led the way with seven dishes, while Andrijana Reljic and Eva Langton each had four.
EWC was led by Emily Buchanan with 14 points. Abril Rexach Roure followed with 13 and McKenzie Becker added 11. Paula Martinez-Sanz pulled down 10 boards for the Lancers.
The two squads combined for 60 free throw attempts. EWC was 25 of 35 from the line while the Cougars were 20 of 25.
Casper 74, NJC 72
The Casper women’s basketball team will be vying for repeat titles after holding on to beat Northeastern Junior College 74-72 in a game that was tight from the get-go.
The first quarter saw NJC sneak out to a 22-20 lead only watch Casper come back in the second quarter and outscore the Plainswomen 18-15 for a 38-37 halftime lead.
Casper pushed the lead to 55-51 lead after three periods. Casper hit some clutch free throws at the end of the game and had a five-point lead before NJC nailed a trey at the buzzer to close within two.
Lucie Hoskova finished with a double-double of 33 points and 12 rebounds. Hoskova was 13 of 20 from the field with two treys.
The Thunderbirds received 13 points from Nerea Baena with 13 and 12 points from Jaye Johnson.
Casper shot 42 percent from the field and buried seven treys. The Thunderbirds pulled down 46 rebounds and had 17 assists.
NJC shot 40 percent for the game and made 10 3-pointers. The Plainswomen had three players in double figures. Tashika Burrell led the way with 28 points including six 3-pointers. Alyzae Davis and Aleksandra Ratnikava each had 18 points.
NJC 22 15 14 21 – 72
Casper 20 18 17 19 – 74
Alyzae Davis 18, Tashika Burrell 28, Asia Turner 3, Taylor Knudson 3, Unique Gainey 2, Aleksandra Ratnikava 18.
Bailey Johnson 8, Nierea Baena 13, Maggie Justinak 5, Ashley Tehau 3, Jaye Johnson 12, Lucie Hoskova 33.
EWC (24-9) 16 13 17 19 — 65
WNCC (28-3) 31 22 27 11 – 91
Abril Rexach Roure 13, Ines Salat Margarit 8, McKenzie Becker 11, Emily Buchanan 14, Logan Murphy 1, Kelliann Raff 9, Nicole Cutler 4, Paula Martinez Sanz 8.
Tishara Morehouse 12, Merle Wiehl 13, Allysah Boothe 11, Andrijana Reljic 2, Kolby Underwood 6, Anyssia Gibbs 6, R’Manie Pulling 12, Eva Langton 8, Yuliyana Valcheva 5, Taylor Joplin 16.