LUBBOCK, Texas — The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team received 22 points from Ashley Panem and played solid defense in earning a 79-70 win over Iowa Western Community College Monday in the first-round of the NJCAA National Tournament.
WNCC moves to 16-5 on the season while Iowa Western is eliminated and drops to 22-3 on the season.
The Cougars will now face top-seeded Jones College Tuesday at 1 p.m. MST in Lubbock.
Panem, who made three treys and pulled down five rebounds, said it was a good team win.
“We stayed connected and played good defense,” Panem said. “We had really good adjustments that helped us win.”
Panem said the win was huge for the team, which hasn’t won a game at nationals since the 2014 national tournament when they defeated State Fair Community College 63-60.
WNCC’s second round game will be against Jones College, who is 20-0 on the season. WNCC last played Jones at the 2017 national tournament.
“We are very excited about this win but we are here to keep winning and show that we definitely belong here,” Panem said. “We know they are very athletic. They do the small things really well like rebound and defend. We need to have better help side defense and box out very well.”
WNCC did everything right in the win over Iowa Western on Monday. The Cougars led for 99% of the contest and controlled the pace.
Panem said they did the little things to advance in the national tournament.
“The key was to rebound without second chance opportunities and defend well,” she said. “They played defense well on us but we just made our adjustments and read what the defense was giving us.”
WNCC opened the national tournament leading 9-3 before Iowa Western came back to take a 12-11 lead. That was short-lived s Bella Sparaco hit a bucket and then Panem nailed a shot along with two free throws by Ky Buell to lead 17-12. WNCC led after the first quarter 17-14.
The second quarter saw WNCC go up 25-17 on a Panem trey and led 27-20 on a Martrice Brooks 3-pointer. WNCC kept it raining threes as Buell nailed one to lead 30-23.
Iowa Western battled back to slice the lead to two, 31-29 with 1:27 to play in the half, but Payton Fields nailed a trey to lead 34-29. The Reivers closed out the half on a 4-0 run as WNCC led at halftime 34-33.
The third quarter saw Iowa Western take a slim 41-40 lead with 4:41 to play in the third. It was short-lived as WNCC went up 44-43 and led 50-45 late in the third on a Brooks’ bucket. WNCC led after three 50-46.
WNCC opened up the offense in the fourth quarter. After Iowa Western cut the lead to 52-51 early in the quarter, WNCC went up by nine points with 4:45 to play on a Panem bucket. WNCC went up by double digits on a Panem 3-pointer at 67-56 and kept the lead at eight or more the rest of the way to get the win.
WNCC shot 42 percent from the field and were 8-of-20 for 40 percent from beyond the arc. Iowa Western shot 36.1 percent from the field and were just 6-of-19 for 31.6 percent from beyond the arc.
WNCC had three players in double figures. Panem led the way with 22 points followed by Alejah Douglas with 17 and Lidsey Mahoukou with 11. Brooks added nine points while Fields had six.
WNCC had 38 rebounds led by Mahoukou with nine boards and Shanti Henry with seven rebounds.
Douglas finished with six assists and three steals.
Other first-round games Monday saw No. 9 Three Rivers top No. 24 Eastern Oklahoma State 76-74, No. 18 Miles take out No. 15 Gulf Coast State 76-72 in overtime, No. 10 Wabash Valley handle No. 23 Independence 59-29, No. 23 Georgia Highlands beat No. 20 Southern Idaho 65-62, and the late game was No. 12 Butler against No. 21 Otero.
Iowa Western 14 19 13 24 – 70
WNCC 17 17 16 29 – 79
Hayley Berfeld 19, Arielle McElroy 3, Isnelle Natabou 12, Geassy Germano 2, Gabriella Smith 11, Ruba Abo Hashesh 4, Brala Benion 1, Dustie Obah 10, Ayeona Carter 7, Adoreya Williams 1.
Alejah Douglas 17, Bella Sparaco 4, Ky Buell 5, Ashley Panem 22, Lidsey Mahouhou 11, Martrice Brooks 9, Shanti Henry 3, Payton Fields 6, Isabelle Cook 2.