If records are any indications, Wednesday’s pre-Thanksgiving gobble clash between the 13-ranked Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team and North Platte Community College, who received votes in the NJCAA Division II poll, should be a contest fans should be able to talk about the next day over Thanksgiving dinner.
Tip-off for the contest is set for 6 p.m. at Cougar Palace.
“I think tomorrow [Wednesday] will be a highly competitive game,” WNCC coach Chad Gibney said. “North Platte has a really good team. They are well coached and they play hard. They play for one another. They do a lot of really good things out there.”
It has been over 10 years since these two programs, who are just three hours apart, have played each other and Gibney is hoping to make it a yearly occurrence.
“It has been a long time since we got this in-state game,” Gibney said. “We are excited to play them and hopefully make it a more commonly occurrence.”
WNCC will have to be ready to go Wednesday night, too, and not take North Platte lightly.
Both teams enter Wednesday night’s contest in Scottsbluff with near-identical records. The Cougars are 5-1 on the season after suffering their first loss of the season on Saturday to now 12th-ranked College of Southern Idaho.
The Knights enter Cougar Palace with a 6-1 mark and winners of their last four contests. North Platte’s lone loss came to Colby Community College, 62-56, on Nov. 12. Since then, the Knights have defeated Air Force Prep 72-65, York College JV 96-42, Marshalltown 75-55, and Iowa Lakes 70-59.
“They have an experienced team. They went to the national tournament this past season and they have several players back from that team,” Gibney said. “They are experienced. They are tough. They do a lot of things that are really, really positive. They have four starters back from a national tournament team and they have their sixth man back, so they are experienced and ready to go.”
What makes this an even more interesting contest is both teams are strong defensively. North Platte is giving up just 55.4 points a contest. The Knights are allowing their opponents 33.8 shooting from the field and 21 percent from the 3-point arc.
WNCC is allowing just 62.8 points a contest. WNCC allows its opponents 35.4 percent shooting from the field and 28.8 percent from beyond the arc.
Offensively, the Cougars are the top team in Division I in scoring points at 93.7 points a contest. Chipola College is right behind at 92.9 points a contest.
North Platte is scoring 72.1 points a contest. The Knights have already put in 40-3-pointers on the season.
The contest will see which teams show up, whether it will be the defensive teams or the offensive teams because offensively, both teams have plenty of scorers on their side.
WNCC has one of the top guards in the country in Ale’Jah Douglas, who signed to play at Clemson University next year. Douglas is averaging 19.5 points a contest and is 86-.8 percent from the free throw line.
Douglas was also named to the watch list of the 2022 World Exposure Report for sophomore of the year. Douglas is the only Region IX player on the watch list along with 19 other sophomores.
Besides Douglas, the Cougars have four other players averaging above nine points a contest. Martrice Brooks is averaging 13 points a contest followed by Shanti Henry at 10.7. Amani Brown is averaging 10 points while Payton Fields is scoring at a clip of 9.2 points.
North Platte has the 38th leading scoring in Division II in Diamond Moore-Heath, who is averaging 17.7 points a contest.
The Knights also have two other players averaging double digits in Kayla Pope at 15.1 points and Sidney graduate Janay Brauer at 11.3 points. Brauer leads the Knights with 21 made 3-pointers.
While there are plenty of similarities offensively and defensively between the two teams, the two squads have not met since 2010 when WNCC won 66-45 on February 5. WNCC owns a 53-9 overall record against the Knights. WNCC’s last loss to the Knights came before the David Harnish-era at WNCC. Dave Harnish was 43-0 against North Platte while the previous two coaches were 13-9 in the 1970s and 80s.
Both squads have been to the national tournament quite a bit, too. WNCC has appeared at nationals the last five years, including last year where they went 2-1 upsetting No. 1 seed jones College in the second round.
North Platte has been to the Division II national tournament four times since 2010 including two of the past three years.