WNCC men make comeback, but fall to No. 8 Salt Lake
     2014-11-20      By The Gering Citizen   
SCOTTSBLUFF The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team easily could have folded in its game against No. 8 Salt Lake Community College, but they didn’t.
Trailing by as much as 19 points with seven minutes to go, the Cougar men came back to cut the deficit to two points on two occasions with under a minute to play. In the end, though, the Bruins walked out of Cougar Palace with a hard-earned 85-81 win to finish off the Region 9/18 Challenge.

WNCC coach Russ Beck was upbeat after the contest because of the fight his team showed Saturday night that had the fans glued to their seats.
"I loved our fight tonight; we had salt lake on the ropes,” Beck said. “We are getting better every game. I told the guys forget your record because unlike most JUCO teams who are playing all-star teams and JVs, we actually are playing the best teams in the NJCAA with their huge budgets, full time coaches and 15 full rides and we are getting more done with less."

The hard schedule the team is enduring will pay off down the stretch because each game, the Cougars are giving the best teams in the nation a fight.

“This adversity will build our team because unlike most JUCO teams, we possess character and adversity builds character,” he said. "When it's all said and done we are winning the region this year and getting to Hutch. I can say that because we already get everyone's best game in the region. So fans, hang in there with us and we will make you proud.”

The fans definitely hung in there Saturday night as they witnessed a comeback that almost equaled the comeback the Cougars had back on Nov. 1 when they beat Northwest Wyoming in overtime.
Salt Lake ran to a 9-2 lead to start the contest but WNCC never lost sight as they outscored the Bruins 18-9 to grab a 20-18 lead on a Diante Mitchell 3-pointer. The game stayed close until Salt Lake went up 42-29. WNCC scored the final four points of the half to only trail 42-33.

Salt Lake pushed the lead to double digits and kept it there for much of the first 13 minutes of the second half when the Bruins led 71-53. After that, the Cougars picked up the intensity like no other as a gitty Cougar team hit clutch free throws, big 3-pointers from Tyler Crosbie and driving layups from Mitchell and Preston Christensen to get to 78-76 with 1:33 to play.

From there, the fans were on the edge of their seats as the Cougars trailed 83-81 on a driving lay-in by Mitchell to bring the Cougars to within 83-81 with 12 seconds to play. Salt Lake hit the front end of free throws twice to seal the win.

The Cougars were led by Christensen and Mitchell who each had 22 points. Christensen went a perfect 12 of 12 from the free throw line, while Mitchell was 9 of 10.
In fact, the Cougars shot 92 percent from the free throw line in connecting on 34 0f 37 attempts. Salt Lake was only 65 percent from the line for the game (17 of 26). The big difference in the game was rebounding, especially early, as Salt Lake out-rebounded the Cougars 41-27.

WNCC will be back in action next week with another tough tournament when they travel to face Top 10 ranked Indian Hills Community College.

First Game
Casper 38 43 – 81
Southern Idaho 39 49 – 88
CASPER
Chase Riley 2, Justin Daniel 11, Hakeem Rogers 31, Dylan Alexander 8, Shon Briggs 13, Tanner Morgan 4, Jalen Canty 12.
SOUTHERN IDAHO
Abdouilaye Harouna 16, Shaq Carr 6, Uchenna Iroegbu 2, Ray Kasongo 4, Ar’Mond Davis 12, Tyson Smith 12, Frederick Edmond 20, Pape Diatta 16.

Second Game
Salt Lake 42 43 – 85
WNCC 33 48 – 81
SALT LAKE
Gibson Johnson 19, LaBrian Shillet 3, Marcus White 12, De’Sean Parsons 8, Brannon Cresanto 8, Zerrion Payton 1, Larry Okhomina 12, Scott Cook 2, Brandon Morley 15, Blake Wilkinson 4, Tad Dufelmeier 1.
WNCC
Tyler Crosbie 9, Preston Christensen 22, Jalen Griffiths 2, Diante Mitchell 22, Chad Owens 9, Lakeith Ingram 9, Chase Mason 2, Julio Guity 4, Davis Carter 2.
No. 5 Southern Idaho tops WNCC
The No. 5 College of Southern Idaho men’s basketball team put three players in double figures, including 20 points from Fredrick Edmond and then used a couple key scoring runs to earn a hard-fought 74-57 win over Western Nebraska Community College 74-57 in the first day of the Region 9/18 Challenge.

The first game of the night saw No. 8 Salt Lake Community College outscore Casper College 47-17 in the second half to earn a 79-44 win.
The Challenge continues today when Casper takes on Southern Idaho at 5 p.m. and then the Cougars battling Salt Lake at 7 p.m.
The WNCC and Southern Idaho was closer than the final score showed. CSI, which jumped out to 12-0 lead to start the game, never trailed in the contest, but saw plenty of fight in a scrappy Cougar team to earn the win.

WNCC coach Russ Beck said it was a tough game and CSI’s quick start was a big factor.

“It was a tough game, but we kept them 50 points under their average, but they hit more shots than we did,” he said. “We can’t come out and let other teams hit us in the mouth at the beginning of games.”
The quick start by the Golden Eagles was definitely a big factor as CSI jumped out to the 12-0 lead. It wasn’t until Damion Rashford’s free throw with 16:13 left in the opening half that put WNCC on the scoreboard. After that, though, the Cougars played inspired ball for the next eight minutes, outscoring the Golden Eagles 17-6 to trail 18-17.

The run was highlighted by 3-pointers by Rashford, Preston Christensen, and Jalen Griffiths. Plus, Griffiths had an electrifying 3-point play that ignited the crowd.

WNCC never could get a bucket to get the lead as CSI went on a 9-2 run to lead 27-19 and went on to take a 36-24 lead at halftime.
The second half saw WNCC slice the lead to 36-30 on five points from Christensen. CSI, however, came back on a 17-4 run to lead 53-34. The Cougars did try a late comeback, cutting the lead to 61-49 on a Julio Guity 3-point play and an offensive putback from Lakeigh Ingram, but it wasn’t enough.

The difference in the game was shooting. CSI shot 57 percent from the field and 54 percent from beyond the arc, while WNCC was just 35 percent from the field and 33 percent from behind the arc.
Christensen paced all scorers in the game with 26 points, including going 10 of 11 from the free throw line. Griffiths was the only other player in double figures for the Cougars with 10 points followed by Rashford with nine.

CSI was paced by Edmond’s 20 points followed by Abdoulaye Harouna with 13, and Ar’Mond Davis with 11.

First game
Casper 27 17 – 44
Salt Lake 32 47 – 79
CASPER
Chase Riley 5, Justin Daniel 2, Hakeem Rogers 15, Dylan Alexander 3, Shon Briggs 5, Tanner Morgan 2, Benson Osayande 1, Jalen Canty 6, Andre Sands 5.
SALT LAKE
Gibson Johnson 8, LaBrian Shiffet 3, Marcus White 2, De’Sean Parsons 24, CJ Spjute 4, Brannon Cresanto 3, Zerrion Payton 5, Scott Cook 2, Brandon Morley 6, Blake Wilkinson 7, Tad Dufelmeier 6.

Second Game
Southern Idaho 36 38 – 74
WNCC 25 32 – 57
SOUTHERN IDAHO
Abdoulaye Harouna 13, Shaq Carr 6, Ar’Mond David 11, Tyson Smith 7, Keonta Vernon 4, Fredrick Edmond 20, Page Diatta 8, Dakota Chambers 3, Austin Winegar 2.
WNCC
Damion Rashford 9, Preston Christensen 26, Jalen Griffiths 10, Diante Mitchell 1, Chad Owens 5, Lakeith Ingram 2, Julio Guity 4

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