The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team brought the Region IX South title back home to Cougar Palace Tuesday night.
The Cougars earned the title with a hard fought win over North Platte Community College 82-76 in a game that saw WNCC lead from start to finish and saw sophomore Bryce Sanchious hit four clutch free throws down the stretch lift the Cougars to the sub-region win and giving them a bye into next week’s Region IX tournament March 7-9 in Sheridan, Wyoming.
The win moves the Cougars to 23-7 overall but more importantly they sent the six sophomores – Jervay Green, Dru Kxhausen, Bryce Sanchious, Martin Roub, Henry Tanksley, and Marquis White – off to regionals in a win in the six’s final game at Cougar Palace.
Green, who finished with a double-double of 26 points and 14 assists, said there is plenty of emotion right now realizing that they played their final game in front of a packed Cougar Palace, coming away with a win.
“It is a bunch of emotions going on right now,” Green said after he helped the team win the South sub-region title and also playing his last game in Cougar Palace. “It is happy and sad. I am sad that I will miss playing here, but I am going on to bigger and better things now.”
It was a win that the Cougars led from start to finish. There was just one tie, at 71-71 with four minutes to play.
“That [North Platte never taking the lead] was good on our part because we were doing what we were supposed to being doing on defense,” Green said. “We just need to continue to do that.”
Overall, Green will take the win because it was a good team effort to bring the sub-region title back to WNCC.
“I think we played great. We came out very strong. Everything was there. The energy and the crowd was there. Everything was pumping. Everybody was going all crazy,” he said. “They made a little comeback in the second half, but it was all good. We came back and pulled it out.”
WNCC started the game strong, bolting to a 10-2 lead on back-to-back treys by Kuxhausen and led 31-13 after a Roub bucket. The Cougars kept playing tough, leading 50-30 on a Green 3-pointer before taking a 50-34 lead into the lockerroom.
North Platte outscored WNCC 44-32 in the second half and started to mount a comeback. WNCC led by double digits 71-60 before North Platte went on a 11-0 run to knot the score at 71-71 on a 3-pointer.
The Cougars retook the lead on a Green bucket and then Kuxhausen hit a big 3-pointer with 1:35 to play to lead 76-71. North Platte nailed two free throws, but Roub came back with a trey and then Sanchious hit four free throws for the win.
“That [different people hitting big shots] is real big,” Green said. “Most teams we play, they think it is just me or Marty or Dru on the team but that is not the case. It is our whole team. We have a lot of basketball players that can get to the bucket or play defense.”
WNCC shot 51 percent for the game and were 12 of 32 from the 3-point field. The first half was the major reason for the win as WNCC shot 61 percent and buried nine treys.
North Platte fortunes turned around from the first to the second. The Knights shot 32 percent I the first half and buried 2 of 7 treys. The second half, the Knights were 46 percent from the field and made four treys.
WNCC made six more 3-pointers than North Platte, but the Knights were solid from the charity stripe, making 20 of 23 while WNCC was just 8 of 16.
WNCC won the rebound battle 29-25 and dished off 30 assists. Roub led the Cougars from the glass with 11 followed by Sanchious with eight and Green with seven. Green had 14 assists with Kuxhausen finishing with eight.
WNCC had three in double figures. After Green’s 26, Kuxhausen tallied 23 with seven 3-pointers. Roub had 17 points to go with his 11 boards.
North Platte was led by Tim Johnson with 23 points.
WNCC will now be in action March 7 at the Region IX tournament in Sheridan, Wyoming. The 3-day event will determine who will qualify for the national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas. The Cougars are seeking to repeat as champs and Green said the week off will help the team get healed up and ready to go.
“This win feels great right now,” Green said. “We got a win with the teammates and now we get this week off and let the team rebuild their strength. Everyone is beat up so this week will be well-deserved.”
The complete final eight teams at the regional tournament won’t be decided until after Saturday’s first round. For Green and his teammates, they just have to continue taking care of business.
“We are just going to take it game by game,” Green said. “Hopefully we come away with a tournament win and then on to Hutch. Nothing will be easy. We have been struggling the whole year, but we are ready for the challenge.”
North Platte (22-4) 32 44 – 76
WNCC (23-7) 50 32 – 82
Courtney Murrell 16, Liva Turtyshnik 9, Tim Johnson 23, Luke Christen 3, Da’May Jones 9, Edgars Kaufmanis 6, Jakub Karwowski 10.
Dru Kuxhausen 23, Bryce Sanchious 6, Elie Cadet 8, Henry Tanksley 2, Jervay Green 26, Martin Roub 17.