The Western Nebraska Community College men’s and women’s basketball teams will be looking to stay solidly atop the South sub-region standings when they travel to Torrington, Wyoming, Saturday night to face the Eastern Wyoming College Lancers.
The women’s game will tip off at 5:30 p.m. with the men’s game to follow.
Both Cougar teams sit atop the Region IX South standings. The Cougar women are clearly in the driver’s seat to earn the No. 1 seed for the regional tournament with a perfect 8-0 conference mark. The Cougars are 20-3 overall after running through NJC on Saturday 94-59.
The Lancers are in a battle to host a first-round regional game. EWC is 3-4 in conference play and just 4 ½ games out of first place but just a game out of earning a top-four finish and a home playoff contest. EWC has seven conference games to play while WNCC has six conference games left.
The last time these two teams played, back on Dec. 9, the Cougars won a hard-fought 74-64 contest. WNCC led 21-13 after the first quarter and 35-19 at halftime before the Lancers outscored the Cougars 45-39 in the second half.
The difference in the game was 3-point shooting where EWC connected on just 3 of 14 treys compared to 9 of 22 for the Cougars. Olivia Wiberg poured in four treys for the Cougars in the game.
EWC was led in the game by Abril Rexach Roure with 29 points. Roure is averaging 13 points a game this season and has sank 18 treys.
The Lancers are led in the scoring column by Lauren O’Connell and Pamela Bethel, who each are scoring at over 15 points a contest. O’Connell is averaging 15.5 points while Bethel is at 15.3. O’Connell lead the team in 3-point shooting with 50 made treys this season and making 40.3 percent of her shots.
The Lancers come into the contest after topping Laramie County Community College 84-78 in overtime on Monday. Before that win, the Lancers had their 4-game winning streaked snapped by Northeastern Junior College 83-76 on Jan. 25.
WNCC has been on a tear lately, winning their last five games by 30 or more points. The Cougars have scored 90 or more points in the last three games, starting with a 107-32 win over the Nebraska All-stars. WNCC also ran over McCook to a tune of 115-56 and then blasted NJC 94-59.
The Cougar women have four players averaging in double figures. Merle Werle leads the team at 16.1 points followed by Melisa Kadic at 14.3. Jaleesa Avery is scoring at a calming 11.1 points, while Karli Seay is at 10.4 and Giovanna Silva is at 10 points a game.
The Cougars bread and butter this season has been their transition game, where they can score from inside and outside. WNCC is shooting 33.5 percent from the 3-point arc, connecting on 148 treys this season. Kadic has buried 52 this season followed by 24 from Wiberg and 21 from Wiehl.
After Saturday’s contest, the Cougar women will hit the road next weekend for two conference matchups when they face second place Trinidad State Junior College on Friday and then Laramie County Community College on Saturday afternoon.
The men’s contest will also be an interesting contest. The Cougar men are looking to win the South conference and host the Region IX tournament. WNCC is 8-1 in conference play and just one game ahead of second place Otero Junior College (7-2). The WNCC men are 18-4 on the season and looking for back-to-back 20-win seasons. The last time the Cougar men had that happen was in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons when Ron Brillhart was coach.
EWC enters the contest on a 9-game losing skid. But, in those nine losses, the Lancers have played the teams tough. The Lancers are 2-19 overall.
The two teams’ previous meetings in December was a high scoring affair. The two squads combined for 240 points with WNCC winning 129-111. That game saw the two squads combine for 35 3-pointers. WNCC had 22 treys it that contest, with Djodje Dimitrijevic nailing seven and Vinnie Shahid getting six.
EWC has four players averaging in double figures, led by Brandon Meadows and Walker Korell each averaging 14.3 points. Jonathan Morrobel is averaging 12.5 and Alek Cosic is at 10 points a game. Nick Holmes is right there, too, averaging 9.4 points a game.
The Cougar men have five players in double figures. Shahid is averaging 19.5 points a contest followed by Dimitrijevic at 15.6. Jervay Green and Marlon Sierra are next at 14.2 and 14.1 points respectively, while Trent Harris is popping in 13 points a game. Martin Roub is right there as well, averaging 9.6 points.
After this weekend, both squads will be on the road next weekend taking on Trinidad State Junior College and Laramie County Community in sub-region contests.