LUBBOCK, Texas — Ky Buell hit a 15-footer with 13 seconds to play and the No. 16-seeded Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team knocked off No. 1-seeded Jones College in the second round of the NJCAA national tournament on Tuesday.
It is the first time a Cougar women’s basketball team has beaten a top-ranked team and it came in a team workmanlike fashion. Buell, who only had 10 points in the game but hit two of the biggest points of the game, said they knew this was going to be a close contest.
“As a whole we were all just so excited to be able to play and compete together the last two days,” the freshman from Cheyenne East High in Wyoming said. “From the get-go we were all locked in and ready to do what we knew we had in our bag! The week leading up to the national tournament you could tell that we all had a fire in our eyes and in our heart and wanted to go compete as a team! It wasn’t enough to just make it to the tournament we wanted to win!!”
The Cougars definitely have taken the nation by storm after earning an at-large berth to the national tournament and winning two straight, Monday against Iowa Western 79-70 and then Tuesday when they took out the No. 1 Bobcats 63-60.
All through the game, the Cougar players made big shots as nine different players scored in the game. Alejah Douglas led the way with 27 points, including 19 in the first half. Buell was the only other player in double figures with 10.
Buell’s go-ahead shot with 13 seconds to play, followed by Ashley Panem’s two free throws with 5.1 seconds to play, put the Cougars up by three and the Cougars played strong defense to get the win.
Buell said you always dream of making a big bucket like that and she was mentally prepared.
“From the very beginning of the game, we knew it was going to be a close one just because of who they were and what seed they came into the tournament as,” the freshman from Cheyenne East High in Wyoming, said. “So, mentally, I got myself right to be able to know that it was going to come down to a shot like that! As a player you dream of moments like that, and you pray that God gives you the confidence to finish the shot! As soon as it left my hand, I knew it was good!”
WNCC only trailed a handful of times against the top-seeded team, who entered the tournament unbeaten at 20-0. The Cougars didn’t do anything real special except play tough defense and get key rebounds.
“Today we were locked in from the get go and it showed,” Buell said. “Everybody did exactly what they needed to do in order for us to win! We were seamless as a team, which made the win so much more sweeter!”
WNCC led for all but five minutes of the contest and really took over the contest with a strong second quarter.
Jones started strong by leading 7-4 in the first quarter only to see back-to-back 3-pointers by Isabelle Cook and Shanti Henry give WNCC a 10-7 lead. Jones came back to lead 13-12 on a free throw, but the Cougars closed out the first quarter as Martrice Brooks hit a free throw and then Douglas had a trey for the 16-13 lead.
WNCC’s defense in the second quarter was what won the contest. The Cougars held the top-seeded Bobcats scoreless for over six and half minutes in the quarter. In the meantime, WNCC ran off 14 straight in the second quarter for a 30-13 lead. WNCC went up 32-16 on a Douglas bucket before Jones sliced the lead to 10 points at 32-22. Douglas had the hot hand as the freshman point guard scored two buckets to end the quarter and give WNCC a 36-24 halftime lead.
Jones outscored the Cougars 25-19 in the third period. Jones opened the third on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to a bucket at 36-34. WNCC answered with a run of their own as Douglas and Buell each buried treys for a 44-34 WNCC lead. The Cougars went back up by 13 points at 52-39 on another Buell 3-pointer and led after three periods 55-49.
The fourth quarter was low-scoring as Jones outscored WNCC 11-8. The Cougars led 59-52 with four minutes to play. Jones went on an 8-0 run and took its first lead since the first quarter with 29.4 seconds to play on a field goal to lead 60-59.
WNCC worked the ball for a shot and that was when Buell, who wears No. 13, hit a 15-footer over the outstretched arms of Endia Holliday with 13 seconds to play. Jones missed a shot and WNCC got the rebound and Ashley Panem was fouled with 5.1 seconds. Panem calmly hit both charity tosses for the 63-60 lead.
Jones called a timeout to advance the ball to midcourt and a contest 3-pointer in the corner came up short as it hit the front iron and WNCC sealed the win to advance into the Elite Eight.
WNCC shot 35 percent from the field and 33 percent from beyond the arc (8-of-24). They were also just 9-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Douglas finished with a double-double with 27 points and 12 rebounds. Douglas also had three treys. Buell had two 3-pointers along with four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Henry finished with seven points with a trey while Panem and Lidsey Mahoukou each had four points.
WNCC moves onto the Elite Eight and will have a day off when they face Three Rivers Community College on Thursday. Three Rivers defeated Casper College 68-60 on Tuesday. Thursday game starts at 12 noon.
Buell said they need to keep playing like they have the last two games at nationals come Thursday.
“We have to do exactly what we have been doing the last two days, compete as a team,” she said. “We refuse to lose!”
WNCC 16 20 19 8 – 63
Jones 13 11 25 11 – 60
Alejah Douglas 27, Bella Sparaco 2, Ky Buell 10, Ashley Panem 4, Lidsey Mahoukou 4, Martrice Brooks 3, Shanti Henry 7, Payton Fields 3, Isabelle Cook 3.