It was a battle between the two Highway 26 rivals Tuesday night and the Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team buried 12 3-pointers in earning an 81-67 win over Eastern Wyoming College at Cougar Palace.
WNCC evens their record at 5-5 and will be back in action Friday evening when they host Jump Start Academy.
WNCC head coach Billy Engel said it was a game where they played up and down, but found a way to win the contest in the final nine minutes.
“We had our ups and we had our downs. We had some moments where we gave up some runs and there were open looks that we weren’t happy to give up, but when it came down to it we made enough plays defensively that gave us some easy looks in transition and getting to the rim and had some guys step up and make some plays,” Engel said. “So, did enough to get the job done tonight.”
The big key in the contest came with about nine minutes to play. EWC just sliced a WNCC 8-point lead down to one, 58-57. WNCC called a time out and responded on an 11-0 run and outscored the Lancers 23-10 in the final six minutes for the win.
Engel said that timeout and how his team played coming out of the timeout was huge.
“I can’t remember what we talked about in that timeout whether we drew up a play or talked about defense, but it definitely a shift in mentality coming out of that timeout,” he said. “We defended and kept the ball in front. We protected the rim and we rebounded better and that led to good things offensively.”
The Cougars, just like the women’s contest, only trailed once and that was early in the game when EWC led 4-2. After that, WNCC jumped to an 11-7 lead on five points from Nazir Griffin and led 19-11 after a Griffin trey and a Travis Easterly, Jr., bucket.
WNCC pushed the lead to nine points at 33-24 on a Junior Galicia bucket. EWC battled back to slice the deficit to 39-35 on a Ryan Aye 3-pointer, but WNCC came back to lead 42-35 at halftime.
The second half saw WNCC lead 58-50 on back-to-back 3-pointers by Anthony Simo and Willie Wilson. That was when EWC scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer by Henos Fitwi with 9:16 to play. WNCC called a timeout and the Cougars responded, going on the 11-0 run that was led by two treys by Kayden Nation to lead 69-57.
WNCC went up 79-63 on back-to-back treys once again before winning going away 81-67.
WNCC shot 47 percent from the field and was 50 percent from behind the arc (12-of-24). Griffin, Nation, and Wilson all had three 3-pointers each.
The Cougars had three in double figures, led by Wilson with 15 points followed by Griffin with 13, and Stephen Ovia with 11.
WNCC lost the rebound battle 44-32. EWC’s Khayree Rashed had 10 boards while WNCC was led by Griffin and Ovia with five boards each.
The Lancers had three players in double figures led by Micah Glover with 13 points followed by Ryan Aye with 12, and MJ Binford with 11.
EWC 35 32 – 67
WNCC (5-5) 42 39 – 81
Micah Glover 13, Ryan Aye 12, Khayree Rashed 4, Makhiah Tarver 7, Jules Teboul 6, Nick KwoKam Ngomo 8, Henos Fitwi 6, MJ Binford 11.
JJ Harris 8, Maurice Walker 6, Nazir Griffin 13, Stephen Ovia 11, Daniel Bula 6, Junior Galicia 4, Anthony Simo 3, Willie Wilson 15, Travis Easterly, Jr. 4, Elijah Burney 2, Kayden Nation 9.