The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team had a poor night shooting, but Kalen Williams 23 points and three free throws with under 30 seconds to play lifted the Cougar men to a 76-72 win over North Platte Community College in South Sub-region action Tuesday night at Cougar Palace.
Elie Cadet, who finished with 13 points and five rebounds, said the team finds ways to win and they did tonight.
“We played hard and it was a tough one,” Cadet said. “We had to battle a lot of adversity and it wasn’t our best playing, but we did OK.”
The Cougars have now come back twice in the second half in two of the last three games,
WNCC trailed 33-31 at halftime and were behind eight points at one time in the second half. Cadet said this team is a second-half team.
“Like Kenny Strawbridge said, we are a second half team,” Cadet said. “I don’t know what it is, but we play a lot better when our backs are on the wall. We were kind of good on the free throws late.”
Shooting was not a real strong point of either team on the night. North Platte was 46 percent from the field but only 25 percent from the 3-point line (4 of 16). The Knights, however, hit their free throws making 16 of 19.
WNCC’s shooting wasn’t good at all. WNCC was just 41 percent for the game and just 12 percent from beyond the arc (2 of 17). WNCC didn’t make any treys in the second half. The Cougars were also lukewarm from the charity stripe, hitting 63 percent (22 of 35).
WNCC, however, hit the shots when they needed late to get the win to move to 5-2 in the South Sub-region and 15-7 overall. The Cougars are two games out of first place. Northeastern Junior College is 7-0 in the conference after beating McCook 99-73 Tuesday night.
Free throws down the stretch were vital for the Cougars, too.
North Platte held a 53-49 lead only to watch WNCC come back to tie the game at 53-53 on a Kenny Strawbridge bucket with 8:57 to play. Cadet then hit a bucket to put the Cougars on top for the Cougars only second lead of the game.
The game went back and forth with North Platte leading 66-63 with three minutes to play. WNCC came back to grab a 69-68 lead on 3 of 4 free throws. Tim Johnson came back to put the Knights in front at 70-69 and then Courtney Murrell put North Platte up 72-69 with a bucket.
WNCC cut it to 72-71 on a dunk and then one of the biggest defensive plays of the game happened as WNCC got a 30-second shot clock violation that waved off the bucket. WNCC came right down the court and Teddy Allen hit two free throws to put the Cougars up 73-72.
North Platte had a wide open look for a 3-pointer but missed and WNCC got the rebound. Williams was fouled with 25 seconds to play and hit one of two free throws for the 74-72. North Platte had another good look at a trey, but missed and WNCC got the defensive board and Williams was fouled once again with 4.5 seconds to play. This time, Williams nailed both charity tosses for the four-point lead and the Cougar winner.
WNCC had just three players in double figures. Williams led the way with 23 points with the only two treys of the game. Strawbridge finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Cadet had 13 points. Teddy Allen, the nation’s leading scorer, finished with just eight points, but pulled down six boards and had six assists and four steals.
North Platte also had three in double digits. Tim Johnson had a double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds. DaVonte Tharpe finished with 13 points while Luke Christen tallied 11.
WNCC will be back in action Friday when they travel to McCook Community College for another South Sub-region contest for a women’s and men’s doubleheader.
Cadet said they have to get back to work because they can’t take any team lightly.
“We have to come tomorrow [Wednesday] and practice very hard and get one win on the road,” he said. “We can’t take them lightly. We can’t take anyone lightly.”
North Platte 33 39 – 72
WNCC (15-7) 31 45 – 76
Jarred Rosser 7, Tayler Johnson 6, Jordan Smith 3, Kalen Williams 23, Kenny Strawbridge 16, Elie Cadet 13, Teddy Allen 8.
Courtney Murrell 6, Gary White 4, DaVonte Tharpe 13, Luke Christen 11, Tim Johnson 27, Damilo Matovic 5, Slavomyr Marchenko 6.