The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team battled back from a 10-point second half deficit, but in the end, the No. 23 Otero Junior College held on to capture an 86-82 Region IX South Sub-region game Saturday at Cougar Palace.
WNCC drops the Cougars to 10-4 in conference play and 20-7 overall. Otero is now 12-2 in conference and 21-3 overall. The Rattlers, with Saturday’s win, earned the No. 1 seed from the South and will host the regional tournament if they win their first-round game. WNCC is still battling for the second seed and still can host as the No. 2 seed if the No. 1 seed losses in the opening round the first weekend in March.
Saturday’s contest was evenly played even though Otero held double-digit leads on a couple of occasions in the second half.
In the first half, WNCC held a 39-38 lead on a Marko Rajanovic 3-pointer. Otero came back with a 7-0 run to go up 45-39 and led 48-41 at intermission.
Otero pushed the lead to 67-54 after going on a 9-0 run. WNCC fought back to 75-68 and trailed by five, 79-74, on a Jervay Green 3-pointer with 4:34 to play. WNCC kept clawing their way back, cutting the deficit to single digits at 83-82 on a Djordje Dimitrijevic 3-pointer with under a minute to play.
Otero’s Chudier Bile nailed two free throws with 21.8 seconds. After a WNCC timeout, the Cougars turned the ball over with 9.6 seconds to play. Jervae Robinson sealed the win by hitting one free throw with 7.7 seconds to play.
WNCC shot 50 percent from the field, but were just 9 of 23 from beyond the arc. Otero shot 48 percent from the field and they were 6 of 17 from long range.
WNCC had four players in double figures. Marlon Sierra led the way with 21 points. Sierra also had eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Also hitting for double digits were Green with 19, Vinnie Shahid with 11, and Rajanovic with 11.
WNCC will close out the regular season next weekend when they hit the road to face McCook on Friday and then North Platte on Saturday.
The first-round regional tournament games will be played March 2 or 3 at the site of the top four teams.
Otero (24-3) 48 38 – 86
WNCC (20-7) 41 41 – 82
Jervae Robinson 13, Reggie Gibson 4, Sekou Cisse 8, Chudier Bile 22, Marquise Johnson 5, Andre Arissol 14, Jonathan Scott 4, Josh McNair 12, Jesse Barnes 4.
Milos Popovic 3, Trent Harris 2, Bryce Sanchious 5, Vinnie Shahid 16, Marlon Sierra 21, Marko Rajanovic 11, Jervay Green 19, Djordje Dimitrijevic 5.