January 27, 2023

By MARK REIN Low Courier

MCCOOK — The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team buried nine 3-pointers and led over 90% of the game as the Cougars took the No. 5 New Mexico Junior College fell 63-52.

WNCC head coach Isaac Lu said his team played well.

“Our whole team strengthened this afternoon,” said Lu. “We had great performances from many players. We put down some great shots and managed to handle some pressure to close it at the end. It was a big win against the country number five so I’m looking forward to keeping this thing going.”

The Cougars played together and never let New Mexico make big runs except in the third quarter.

“We definitely stayed focused,” said Lu. “We had a game plan and the women could execute it. So these are big props for them. We slowed down the game and forced them to hit us from the outside and not from the inside where they are really good and dominant.”

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WNCC was 2-0 down early in the contest, but a bucket from Shiho Isono and then a three from Yara Garcia put the Cougars 5-2 up. New Mexico took the lead 8-5 and later 9-7, but Mackenzie Joseph hit a big 3-pointer to give WNCC an 11-9 lead.

From that point on, the two teams traded buckets as the two teams tied at 11, 13, 15 and 17. Bre Fowler ended the first quarter when she hit a three for a 20-17 lead.

WNCC continued to play strong and focused in the second quarter where they never gave up the lead. WNCC took a 24-19 lead after a bucket from Ola Duda and Isono, and shortly thereafter led 27-21 after another bucket from Isono.

New Mexico came back when they hit a bucket and then nailed a 3-pointer to reduce the Cougars’ lead to 27-26. Joseph stopped the mini-run and then Duda had an old-fashioned 3-point play for a 32-26 lead. The big shot came with less than a minute to play when Mia Jaye Sarkodee-Adoo scored a three for a 35-28 lead. New Mexico had the last bucket as WNCC led 35-30 at halftime.

The third quarter got off to a dicey start as New Mexico scored the first nine points to forge a 39-35 lead. WNCC didn’t get their first bucket until 4:30 to play in the third quarter when Faith Walker scored. However, WNCC played strong defense and kept New Mexico scoreless in the final five minutes of the third.

Meanwhile, WNCC continued to play heavily offensively and focused when Isono hit a bucket to level the game at 39-39 and then Joseph nailed a three for a 42-39 lead. WNCC leads 43-39 after three.

In the fourth quarter, New Mexico reduced the deficit to 44:43 after firing a shot on two offensive rebounds. WNCC came right back as Joseph nailed a three-pointer and then thumped 3-pointers around Fowler and Garcia for a 53-45 lead at 5:45.

WNCC extended the lead to 11 at 58-47 when Joseph nailed a trey and Isono had a steal and bucket. Duda later made it 60-49. New Mexico tried to come back as they cut the lead to 60-52, but Duda made three of four free throws with 90 seconds left and then the Cougar defense got key defensive rebounds and neither team scored again to give WNCC the win to bring.

WNCC had four players in double figures. Joseph led by 15 points with four 3-pointers. Isono and Garcia each had 12 points. Garcia had two 3-pointers while Isono had five assists. Duda also had 11 points in the win while Fowler had eight points with two Treys.

The win puts the Cougars 6-3 in the season and it was the Cougars’ third straight win as they prepare for a three-day invite in Gillette, Wyoming, which begins Friday when they take on Dawson Community College .

Lu said they would recover and then prepare for this weekend.

“We’re going to take a few days off to recover a little,” he said. “We’re feeling a little shaky and we’ll be back afterwards to prepare for next weekend at Gillette.

WNCC (6-3) 20 15 8 20 – 63

New Mexico (6-1) 17 13 9 13 – 52

Mackenzie Joseph 15, Shiho Isono 12, Yara Garcia 12, Ola Duda 11, Bre Fowler 8, Mia Jaye Sarkodee-Adoo 3, Faith Walker 2.

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