Cougars ready for the dance

The Western Nebraska Community College women's basketball team enters the NJCAA Division I national tournament on quite a roll.


The Cougars have reeled off 13 straight wins and captured their second straight Region IX championship last week.


Now, the Cougars enter the national tournament with a decent draw. WNCC is seeded 17th, but it is who they play that has WNCC ready for the national tournament battle.


WNCC, 30-4, open the NJCAA Division I national tournament on Monday against familiar foe in No. 16 seed State Fair Community (21-8) on Monday at 9 a.m. The two squads met back on Nov. 26 and the Cougars came away with a 67-61 victory.


WNCC will be making their second straight appearance in the national tournament, which features 24 teams in a single elimination tournament. Last year, the Cougars fell in the opening round to ASA College 74-68.


State Fair earned a trip to nationals by beating Iowa Western Community College 67-53 in the district playoffs. The Roadrunners won the Region 16 championship 72-55 over Jefferson College. State Fair enters the contest with a seven game win streak and winners of 16 of their last 18 games since the road trip to WNCC and Southern Idaho.


The WNCC and State Fair winner will advance to a Tuesday, 1 p.m. contest against top-seeded Trinity Valley Community College. Trinity Valley enters the tournament with a 32-1 record.


The top eight seeds get first-round byes while the next 16 play opening round games.


Opening round games on Monday include No. 9 Northwest Florida State (24-6) vs. No. 24 Denmark Tech (17-2), No. 13 Blinn College (26-6) vs. No. 20 Baton Rouge (24-6), No. 12 Salt Lake Community College (25-7) vs. No. 21 Lake Region State (29-4); No. 15 New Mexico Junior College (25-5) vs. No. 18 ASA College (18-3), and No. 10 Butler (32-2) vs. No. 23 Southwest Mississippi (21-8).


Tuesday's opening round contests pit No. 14 Eastern Arizona (23-8) vs. No. 19 Northern Oklahoma-Enid (20-11), and No. 11 Tyler Junior College (28-5) vs. No. 22 Southwestern Illinois (23-5).


The top eight teams receiving a bye included No. 1 Trinity Valley, No. 2 Chipola College (31-1), No. 3 Hutchinson (32-0), No. 4 Walters State (32-0), No. 5 Central Arizona (29-2), No. 6 College of Southern Idaho (29-3), No. 7 Shelton State (30-3), and No. 8 South Georgia Tech (30-4).


This will be WNCC's 11th national tournament appearance since 1993. The Cougars have also won four straight regional titles from 2003-2006, finishing second in the nation in 2003. This season, the Cougars put together a 30-win season for the eighth time. WNCC coach Dave Harnish also notched his 700th career win earlier in February. Harnish's career record now stands at 708-148.


The tournament runs through March 22 with the championship and third place games. The national tournament games can be watched at njcaatv.com.

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