Vinnie Shahid nailed four free throws with 8.6 seconds to play to help the Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team hold off Northeastern Junior College 97-92 Saturday in a Region IX South sub-region contest.
The win keeps the Cougars on top of the South standings with an 8-1 mark while NJC falls to 3-7 in conference play.
Saturday’s win was the Cougars fourth straight and pushed the Cougars to 18-4 on the season. NJC drops to 8-13 on the season.
WNCC, in getting the win, had six players hit for double digits. Vinnie Shahid led the way with 17 points while going 9 of 11 from the charity stripe.
The Cougars also received 14 points each from Marko Rajanovic and Djodje Dimitrijevic, 13 each from Martin Roub and Trent Harris, 11 from Marlon Sierra, and 10 from Jervay Green.
Rajanvic, who buried three 3-pointers in the win, said the team played well in the first half and then struggled a little in the second half.
“We played pretty good the first half and fell down a little in the second half,” the freshman from Serbia said. “But we settled down and got the win.”
WNCC had a commanding 49-32 lead at the half, where they buried 11 3-pointers and shot 51 percent from the field while holding NJC to 40 percent shooting.
The second half saw NJC outscore the Cougars 60-48 and the 3-pointer shooting flip-flopped where NC made 11 treys and WNCC made just four 3-pointers.
Coming down the stretch, games like this where they need to win in the final minute will become crucial as the Cougars aim for their first Region IX title in over 10 years.
“It is important to learn from these type of games so when the games really matters when a big game comes, it doesn’t happen to us again where we fall in the second half.”
A big key in the win was the diversity of players that scored. While the team had had six players reach double-figures, the team had eight in the scoring column. The win was helped by a number of players hitting big shots at different times. Rajanovic said that is key for this team.
“A lot of people stepped up and hit big shots,” he said.
In deed a lot of players stepped up at different times during the game. The first half saw NJC lead 13-11 before WNCC went on a 10-0 run behind two trays by Rajanovic and one by Shahid for a 21-13 lead. The Cougars stretched the lead to 31-18 on a Sierra bucket and widened the lead to 49-30 on a Rajanvic bucket. The Cougars led 49-32 at intermission.
WNCC led 61-45 on a Dimitrijevc 3-pointer in the second half before NJC started to catch fire from the field, slicing the lead to single digits at 70-63. The Plainsmen took their first lead since early in the first with 5:33 to play on a bucket by Jazz Parker. The lead was short-lived as Shahid hit a bucket and then Jervay Green hit two free throws for a 79-77.
NJC tied the game at 79 and trailed 86-85 on a Keishon Paker 3-pointer. WNCC pushed the lead back to five points, 90-85 on a Rajanovic trey, his third of the game. The game got tighter with under 30 seconds to play as NJC hit a trey, 92-90. Rajanovic nailed a free throw to push the lead to 93-90.
NJC then turned the ball over on the sidelines. Shahid was then fouled with 8.6 seconds to play and calmly hit the two technical shots and the free throws to seal the game.
WNCC will have a week off before hitting the road for three South sub-region games in two weeks. The Cougars will travel to Torrington, Wyoming, next Saturday to face Eastern Wyoming College. The Lancers dropped a 92-78 game to Air Force Prep Saturday afternoon.
NJC (8-13) 32 60 – 92
WNCC (18-4) 49 48 – 97
Marcus Burwell 25, Keishon Parker 26, Nykolas Lange 12, Jalen Guidry 6, Ron Hall 6, Jazz Parker 6, Mohammad Elradi 2, Dan Villejo 9.
Trent Harris 13, Vinnie Shahid 17, Marlon Sierra 11, Jervay Green 10, Djordje Dimitrijevic 14, Bryce Sanchious 5, Marko Rajanovic 14, Martin Roub 13.