Cougars have weekend games

The Western Nebraska Community College men's and women's basketball teams have imported South Sub-Region contests this weekend at Cougar Palace as they entertain Lamar Community College on Friday and Northeastern Junior College on Saturday.

For the Cougar women, who have been off for 10 days, wins in both games pushes them that much closer to hosting the Region IX tournament in March. The Cougars magic number to host is down to four games.

"These games are huge because if we win them, there is a good chance that we will host and that is what we want to do with regionals," sophomore Gritt Ryder said. "These games are huge and we have been preparing for them for a week and a half now. We want to do everything we can to win them."

The women are 6-0 in sub-region play and have won their last 10 games after having to forfeit their first 13 games of the season. Eastern Wyoming College, who is riding a five-game winning streak, sits in second place at 5-3 followed by McCook and Lamar at 4-4.

That makes Friday's contest with Lamar even more important as win Friday will eliminate Lamar from winning the sub-region. Tip-off for both weekend games is slated for 5:30 p.m.

For the Cougar women, though, the 10-day break in games shouldn't be a factor. Ryder said this team will be ready as they forge ahead.

"We have been practicing hard these 10 days," Ryder said. "Hopefully we will ready and we want to give 100 percent. We know we have to be ready from the start to beat Lamar and NJC."

The last time the women played, they defeated Northeastern Junior College 85-45 back on Jan. 29 at Sterling, Colo. Ryder said she expects tough games this weekend.

"We know the second time we play a team they will be better because they know us," she said. "Both games will be tough because both teams play tough. We just need to box out and do the small things. If we do that, I am pretty confident that we will win."

The Cougar women are making plenty of noise in the national rankings. Freshman Mikayla Brower of Torrington, Wyo., is tied for second in 3-point shooting, making 52.9 percent of her shots. Ryder is also tied for fifth in steals per game, swiping four a game. Ryder has 88 steals on the season so far.

As a team, the Cougar are one of the top teams in the nation offensively and defensively. The Cougars are seventh national, averaging 78.7 points a game. Shelton State leads the nation at 87.3 points a game. On the defensive side, the Cougars are among the top 10 giving up 44.5 points a game.

While the women are in prime shape to host regionals, the men's games this weekend are of vital importance as they are battling to stay alive for a regional tournament berth. The Cougar men are 1-7 in sub-region play and have lost their last three contests after defeating Casper College on the road 88-81.

Two wins this weekend for the Cougar men will move them up in the standings. WNCC lost to both teams this weekend, falling to Lamar 81-74 at Lamar on Jan. 8 and then lost to NJC 75-62 on Jan. 29.

After this weekend, the Cougar men will host Laramie County Community College on Tuesday before both teams hit the road for weekend contests at Otero Junior College and Trinidad State Junior College.

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