Cougars hope to go back-to-back


The Western Nebraska Community College women's basketball team is one win away from back-to-back Region IX championships after taking down Eastern Wyoming College 83-66 Tuesday night in the semifinals.


The Cougars will face Western Wyoming Community College in the title game at 6 p.m. in Rock Springs, Wyo., with the winner advancing to the national tournament in Salina, Kan., March 17-22. Western Wyoming was a 80-76 winner over Dawson Community College.


Lyndie Puckett, who finished with 18 points and six 3-pointers, said it feels good to be playing for a regional championship.


"It is a big deal for us to be in the finals," she said. "We really struggled at the beginning of the season and I am so glad that we could make it this far. [Today in the finals] we just need to play really good defense and play like we know how. We have to shut them down."


Puckett and said if this team can bring home a second straight championship, it would be a big deal to this team, who now have won 12 straight since the January loss to EWC.


"It would mean a huge deal for us to win regionals," Puckett said. "We have come so far this season and it would mean so much."


A big key for the Cougars was another solid scoring offense, where three players scored in double figures. Bridgeport's Ashley Stevens finished with 24 points followed by Puckett with 18 and Laurin Rivera with 11. Eight other Cougars also hit the scoring column.


Puckett said different people stepping up to score is a plus for this team right know.


"That balanced scoring is really good and it shows that we have a lot of depth on our team," she said. "It is really important that different people are stepping up and putting in the points for the night."


WNCC's win was highlighted, once again, from a strong shooting game and a defense that held their opponents to 32 percent shooting in the first half and 37 percent for the game.


The Cougars also out-rebounded EWC 49-37 behind seven boards from Stevens and Abi Lujan.


But the real hero on the night was Puckett's shooting from beyond the arc. The big shot, though, came from Rivera, who banked in a halfcourt shot to give the Cougars a 40-23 lead. Early on, though, EWC was controlling the Cougars and Puckett said they knew they had to pick up the intensity.


"We just knew we had to pick it up to beat Eastern Wyoming because they are always like to hang around," Puckett said. "Our shots started falling."


And that they did. WNCC faced a 13-10 deficit before Puckett exploded for four 3-pointers within a four minute span to put the Cougars up 27-22.


After Puckett's four 3-pointer, it was Stevens' turn as the Bridgeport native scored eight straight to push the lead to 35-22. After a free throw by the Lancers, Ally Vasquez hit a bucket and before Rivera's half court bomb for the 40-23 halftime lead.


WNCC never let up in the second half as they pushed the lead to 44-23. The Lancers sliced the lead to 16 at 46-30 on a Brittany Cross 3-pointer and a Jordan Nelson bucket. The Cougars came back with seven straight to go back up by over 20 points at 53-30.


EWC had two players in double figures. Brittany Cross led the team with a double-double of 22 points and 12 rebounds, while Asia Roper had 11 points.



WNCC (29-4) 40 43 – 83

EWC (20-13) 23 43 – 66

WNCC

Allyson Vasquez 2, Laurin Rivera 11, Shalisa Moffit 6, Lyndie Puckett 15, Abi Lujan 1, Angela Vigil 7, Liz Dogan 2, Ashley Stevens 24, Kaylee Biddell 5, Lile Havili 6, Olivia Vogel 1.

EWC

Asia Roper 11, Courtney Peterson 2, Joanna Perez 9, Jordan Nelson 8, Courtney Dollison 4, Clara Vinton 2, Brittany Cross 22, Kara Babola 8.

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