The 20th-ranked Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team used a strong second half in registering their 12th straight victory with a come-from-behind 91-74 Region IX South Sub-region win over Trinidad State Junior College Saturday evening at Cougar Palace.
The win kept the Cougars unbeaten in south conference play at 4-0 and pushed the Cougars to 14-2 on the season.
WNCC had five players finish in double figures in the win in which saw the Cougars trail at intermission 42-37 to a Trinidad State program that received votes in the last month’s national polls.
Trent Harris, who led the Cougar scoring attack with 18 points and two 3-pointers, said the team’s second half play was the difference.
“We started off slow in the first half,” Harris, the Scottsbluff graduate said. “Coach told us that he hasn’t seen just 37 points on the board at halftime in a long time. The second half we got back to our normal selves.”
The first half was a back and forth contest between the two 14-win ball clubs. Trinidad shot 46 percent in the first half and buried five treys while the Cougars shot 56 percent but only made 1 of 6 3-pointers. The other thing is the Cougars were turning the ball over.
Harris said they knew what they needed to do in the second half and it was just a matter of executing it.
“The first half we had a lot of turnovers and coach said we only made one three where we were 1-for-6 and usually we are hitting tons of threes,” Harris said. “The second half we picked it up. We knew what we needed to do [in the second half]. We knew Trinidad was a tough team.”
WNCC took control in the second half, but it wasn’t immediate. The Trojans, who led 42-37, at intermission, pushed the lead to 11 points with back-to-back treys. With Trinidad leading 49-41, that was when the Cougars’ defensive intensity intensified, outscoring the Trojans 21-4 to grab a 62-51 lead with just over 10 minutes to play.
The scoring spree was highlighted by five points from Jervay Green, four points from Harris, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Dimitrijevic and Martin Roub.
Another key in the second half was limiting Trinidad to just two back-to-back buckets. The other times, the Cougar defense either forced a turnover – Trinidad had 22 for the game – or pulled down a key rebound – WNCC had 21 defensive boards.
The closest Trinidad got was 15 points a couple times, the last time at 83-68 with about two minutes to play. It was free throw shooting that nullified any Trojan comeback. The Cougars were a perfect 23 of 23 from the charity stripe, burying 15 in the second half.
WNCC had plenty of scorers as well with six players hitting double digits. Harris led the charge with 18 points followed by Roub with 17 and Dimitrijevic with 16. Vinnie Shahid and Green each tallied 13 points, while Martin Sierra had 12.
WNCC, 14-2, will have a day off before heading to Casper, Wyoming, to face Casper College on Monday. The last time the two Region IX powers met was last month with the Cougars winning 102-70. After Casper, the Cougars will hit the road for two sub-region contests against Otero and Lamar next weekend.
Trinidad (14-3) 42 32 – 74
WNCC (14-2) 37 54 – 91
Job Alexander 10, Dominic Coleman 4, Tykeem Anderson 15, Charles Henderson 3, Trevell Cunningham 15, Rene Melendez 9, Jesus Martinez 8, Issac Essein 5, Ian Kelly 5.
Milos Popovic 2, Trent Harris 18, Vinnie Shahid 13, Marlon Sierra 12, Jervay Green 13, Djodje Dimitrijevic 16, Martin Roub 17.