After over 15 years away from the NJCAA national tournament, the Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team will be making a return trip to the big show after capturing the Region IX title Saturday with an 86-78 win over Otero Junior College
Monday morning the Cougar men learned their fate at the national tournament, garnering the 15th seed and will face the 18th seed Holmes Community College out of Goodman, Mississippi. Holmes is 24-4 on the season while the Cougars enter regionals at 26-7.
The Cougars will kick off the tournament Monday at 11 a.m. MST. The winner will play Northwest Florida State, the second seed, on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
WNCC coach Cory Fehringer said it is just another game on their schedule now.
“We will take it just as it is part of our schedule,” Fehringer said. “Holmes is on our schedule now so we will watch film and perform the best as we can. We just have to stick to what we do without getting caught up to what the opponent is doing at Hutch.”
Region IX got two teams in the national tournament as Otero Junior College, who the Cougars beat for the Region IX title 86-78, earned a 19th seed and will face No. 14 Motlow State, on Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Indian Hills earned the overall top seed. The other seven teams that earned a first-round bye include No. 2 Northwest Florida State, No. 3 Vincennes, No. 4 Salt Lake Community College, No. 5 Coffeyville Community College, No. 6 Florida Southwestern, No. 7 Odessa, and No. 8 Eastern Florida State.
WNCC and Holmes brings two different styles of basketball to the court. WNCC is a high-scoring machine who is one of the top offensive 3-point shooting teams in the nation. Holmes brings a team that is one of the top defensive teams as well as one of the nation’s best in shutting down the 3-pointers.
“What we have seen so far is that they are fast, they are scrappy, and they are athletic,” Fehringer said. “They are going to press you, but we will take our chances with our full court press and take our chances with our offense.”
Fehringer said his team is ready for the Hutch and the way they performed at the regional tournament shows the commitment this team has to be successful.
“It does put a lot of pressure on your shoulders individually and collectively to go out on the road and it tough to go to La Junta and when three and then facing the host game in the third game,” he said. “That show a lot of the grit in the locker room to take care of business on the road. But we expected to go down there and win. So, there is some relief that it is over and we are headed to Hutch, we are also comfortable in our shoes because this is the situation we feel comfortable of being in.”
Fehringer said he expects a good following to Hutchinson next week as several people have called him about tickets and rooms.
“Some of the good ole boys have made a request for tickets for down at Hutch and other people talked about hotel stays,” he said. “I think the NJCAA will be happy that Western Nebraska is back in the tournament because I think we will travel well and put together a good amount of people in the stands. A lot of people are going down there as supporters and believers.”
NJCAA Men’s National Tournament
First Round Matchups
Monday, March 19
No. 16 Barton vs. No. 17 Tyler, 9 a.m.
No. 9 Trinity Valley vs. No. 24 Baltimore City, 11 a.m.
No. 15 Western Nebraska vs. No. 18 Holmes, 1 p.m.
No. 10 Southern Idaho vs. No. 23 Snead State, 3:30 p.m.
No. 13 South Plains vs. No. 20 Highland (Ill.), 5:30 p.m.
No. 12 Connors State vs. No. 21 Central Georgia Tech, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 20
No. 14 Motlow vs. No. 19 Otero, 9 a.m.
No. 11 Hutchinson vs. No. 22 Caper Fear, 11 a.m.