LUBBOCK, Texas – The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team competed against a talented Jones County Junior College team, but came up short 64-42 in the first round of the NJCAA national tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
The Cougar women, who entered with a 16-game win streak, end their season at 28-5. Jones County advances to face Hutchinson Community College on Wednesday.
WNCC was led in scoring by sophomores Sladjana Rakovic and Bree Paulson each with nine points. Anastacia Johnson chipped in seven points.
Paulson, who buried three 3-pointers in the game, said her team competed hard, but just fell short.
“I thought we handled their athleticism pretty well,” she said. “We are definitely an undersized team here. We have guards that are playing forwards and we tried our best and put 100 percent effort in. But, they are a good team and they capitalized on our mistakes and got us behind and we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Even with the loss, Paulson was pleased with the season they had.
“I am definitely happy with this team with everything we have been through including on and off the court,” she said. “It has been a tremendous fight and I am excited to go out with this team. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
WNCC interim head coach Chad Gibney agrees that this team became a unit.
“This team has been a joy to coach,” he said. “They have done a tremendous job of sticking together and have become a team that has formed into one identity where everyone is looking out for their teammate. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Gibney said his team made runs in the game but had trouble against a Jones’ team that was athletic.
“They are an athletic team and they deserve a lot of credit because they play and they speed you up, and they get you out of your rhythm offensively and that caused us a lot of problems throughout the games.
“You have to give Jones County a lot of credit, there is a reason they won 23 games in a row. They are a good basketball team and they came out and got us out what we wanted to do.”
Tonight wasn’t WNCC’s shooting night after shooting well in practice Saturday through Monday down here in Lubbock.
“I thought we came out and competed and it was one of those nights where we didn’t get shots to fall,” Gibney said. “It is hard to win when the ball isn’t going in the basket. Our girls played hard. We held our own on the glass. He handled their pressure well enough to be in the basketball game. When you shoot 25 percent from the field, less than 25 percent from the three and less than 50 from the line it is hard to win.”
Paulson connected on three long-range shots followed one each from Anastacia Johnson and Kellie Green. Paulson said it gets frustrating and your shots don’t fall.
“It was definitely frustrating because we have been shooting over and over in practicing our shots but we always have those games where we have those games where shots won’t fall,” Paulson said. “I thought our defense was well and like I said they are a good team.”
WNCC played well in the first three quarters but allowed a couple Jones County runs. In the opening quarter, Kellie Gaston and Bree Paulson each hit a 3-pointer to put the Cougars up 8-6. Jones County went up 11-8 before Zeynep Canbaz hit a bucket to cut the deficit to 11-10. The Bobcats then went on a 12-0 run to take a 23-10 lead after one quarter.
WNCC played even with Jones County in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 11 with under a minute to play on a trey by Paulson. Jones County led at halftime 35-23.
The third quarter was the Cougars, outscoring Jones County 13-10. WNCC cut the lead to seven points ona Paulson trey and then a bucket by Anastacia Johnson and a steal and bucket by Canbaz cutting the lead to 37-30.
Jones came back with an 8-0 run only to watch WNCC finish off the third on a 36 run on three points by Sladjana Rakovic and a 3-pointer by Johnson to trail 45-36.
Any hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished in the fourth with Jones County going on a 14-0 run that saw them lead 59-36.
WNCC shot 25 percent from the field while Jones County shot 37 percent. WNCC did connect on five 3-pointers compared to just three for the Bobcats.
Both teams hit the boards with Jones County just holding a slim edge 47-44. WNCC was led by Giovanna Silva and Canbaz on the glass with seven rebounds each. Paulson also tallied five boards.
WNCC (28-5) 10 13 13 6 – 42
Jones (29-1) 23 12 10 19 – 64
Sladjana Rakovic 9, Zeynep Canbaz 5, Bree Paulson 9, Anastacia Johnson 7, Giovanna Silva 4, Melisa Kadic 2, Kellie Gaston 4, Deniz Dalkiran 2.
Alexis Tolefree 16, Nique Cherry 12, Myyah West 9, Tetyana Lofton 4, K.K. Tassin 10, Kire Bonner 4, Kyle Felton 7, Juilet Esadah 2.