Cougars getting ready for big weekend

Friday's 69-64 loss to McCook Community College was certainly an eye-opener for the Western Nebraska Community College men's basketball team.

At the same time, it also served as a wake-up call for the Cougars, who say they're determined to play much better this Friday and Saturday in key South Sub-Region contests.

"A good eye-opener game is always good for a team, but this one really hurt us and made us feel bad. I think every guy after that game in the locker room was just mad," WNCC sophomore Charles Ward said. "It was just one of those games. But, now we are back focused and we should come out ready for this weekend."

Both the Cougar men and women will host Trinidad State Junior College on Friday and then Otero Junior College on Saturday. Friday's women's contest begins at 5:30 and the Saturday's women's contest starts at 1 p.m. The men's games will follow afterwards.

The Cougar men, who are 0-2 in sub-region play, have lost their last four games, three of which were in overtime. Ward said they have had a good week of practice and they will be hoping to make a move upwards in the sub-region standings.

"These two games are important for us to get back on top of the region as well as for our team," Ward said. "These two games this weekend will show you how tough this team is mentally and if we are going to get it figured out or not. So, these are very important."

Ward, who is averaging 18 points a game and has connected on 24 3-pointers, said it is important to play the entire 40 minutes of a game and not what they did against McCook where they let the Indians come back from a comfortable lead for the victory.

"Playing an entire game is very important because we have been through it all this year," he said. "We have lost games that we should have made our free throws. We lost games off of turnovers. We lost games because of our execution. And then having the game won against McCook and then just losing it is one of those games that was an eye-opener for us because we haven't been in a game where we have had a really good start and not a good finish. We are focusing on that this week in practice and going hard on the little things, we will be ready for this weekend."

This Cougars will have three straight home sub-region games beginning with Trinidad State on Friday. Trinidad State enters the men's contest with a 3-2 sub-region record (10-6) overall. Saturday's opponent in Otero Junior College comes in at 14-4 overall (2-2 sub-region). Otero captured the Region IX title a year ago on the floor of Cougar Palace.

After this weekend, the Cougars will face Eastern Wyoming College at Cougar Palace on Tuesday in another sub-region contest. That contest will be a battle from the start after EWC topped McCook 106-70 on Tuesday to move to 3-2 in the sub-region and 9-7 overall.

Ward said there are plenty of games left and they are not looking at just one win to turn the season around, but stringing together a nice win streak.

"We are just not satisfied with just one win," the sophomore from Phoenix, Ariz., said. "Our record should be way better than what it is. We are ready to get on a winning streak. I think we will do good things this weekend."

Ward, who started the McCook game off with 11 straight points, said this team has plenty of talent and anyone can put up points. For him, he is not worried about the statistics, it is the winning that matters the most.

"We lost to McCook and what matters to me is just getting the win," he said. "I don't care what the stats are, I just want to get the win and help my team win as much as possible and try to get to nationals. I believe in this team and I have a lot of faith in them. I think we will come out focused this weekend and the energy will be there from the bench. We just need the crowd to be there and to still have faith in us."

While the men are looking to climb the ladder of the sub-region, the Cougar women are hoping to stay unbeaten with hopes of hosting the regional tournament in March. The Cougar women are 2-0 in the sub-region and control their own destiny. Trinidad State and Otero are each 1-1 in conference play entering this weekend. Otero will have Eastern Wyoming College, which is 2-2 in the sub-region after dropping McCook on Tuesday 69-64, on Friday before traveling to WNCC on Saturday.

This weekend's women's contests will have a big factor in the shake-up of the sub-region standings.

The women, however, are playing well. The Cougars are ranked fourth in the nation in offense scoring at a clip of 79.9 points a game. The Cougars only trail Shelton State Community College (89-1), Connors State College (85.9) and Blinn College (82.4). The highest Region IX team after WNCC is Otero Junior College, who comes in at No. 15 in scoring with an average of 76.9 points a game.

The Cougar women have four players that are averaging over seven points a game, led by sophomore Gritt Ryder with 12.7 points a game. Shalisa Moffit is averaging nine points, followed by Jessica Aratani at 8.1, and Ashley Stevens at 7.6.

Defensively, the Cougars are just as sparkling, giving up just 43.4 points a game. The women have already recorded 342 steals and dished out 348 assists. Ryder is nearing triple digits in both categories, having dished out 78 assists and recorded 67 steals.

After these three home contests, the Cougar men and women won't return home until Feb. 8 and 9 when they host Lamar and Northeastern Colorado.

© 2014 Rural Radio Network. All rights reserved. Republishing, rebroadcasting, rewriting, redistributing prohibited. Copyright Information