LUBBOCK, Texas – Aminata Zie scored a team-high 12 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, and the Western Nebraska Community College defense put the clamps on No. 5 seed Wabash Valley College in the fourth quarter to pull off the upset, 70-59, in a second-round matchup of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship on Friday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Ale’jah Douglas added 11 points for the Cougars (29-2), who advance to the quarterfinals to face South Plains College (22-8) on Saturday at 5 p.m.
“That’s a really good team that we just played,” Western Nebraska head coach Chad Gibney said. “I thought we needed to play one of our better games to be able to win and we certainly did that tonight.
Western Nebraska got the job done thanks to its defense down the stretch, which limited Wabash Valley (28-2) to just four field goals in the final 10, including a stretch where the Warriors went without a basket for six minutes. In that time period, the Cougars went on a 15-1 run to turn a 55-53 lead into a 70-54 runaway.
Western Nebraska also dominated on the boards, outrebounding Wabash Valley 58-44.
“To be honest this game was really about getting as much rebounds as we could,” Zie said. “We knew their forwards were really athletic and would go to the (glass), so that was our biggest focus.”
Matrice Brooks had seven of her 11 points for the Cougars in that run that finally gave the Cougars the cushion they’d sought all game. Western Nebraska led or was tied for all but 1:21 of the game.
“Obviously, Matrice Brooks run in the fourth quarter … was huge for us,” Gibney said. “Basketball’s a game of runs and we were fortunate to make one more (than Wabash).”
Trailing 42-36, Wabash made one last gasp, going on an 8-0 run in the third quarter that put the Warriors ahead 44-42. But Western Nebraska was able to come back and take a 50-48 lead to the fourth and extend it to 55-48 on five straight points from Douglas.
Wabash came right back with a Jade Salters 3-pointer and a bucket by Shaulana Wagner to pull to within 55-53 before Brooks took over and propelled the Cougars to the win.
Ashley Panem added 10 points for the Cougars, who overcame a 19-point performance from Daijah Smith for the Warriors. Salters chipped in 13 points while Wagner added 11 and Mariah Jones had 10, all in the first half.
Western Nebraska got off to a strong start, but it didn’t take long for Wabash Valley to reel in the Cougars, using a 6-0 run late in the first quarter to tie the game at 12. The Cougars then went on their own run, scoring nine of the next 11 points in the game to take a 21-14 lead.
The Cougars led 24-18 before the Warriors scored six straight points, five of which came from Jones off the bench to tie the game at 24. Jones then capped another burst with her second 3-pointer of the first half to give the Warriors a 30-27 lead.
Undaunted, Western Nebraska rallied to take a 34-30 lead at the intermission with seven straight points, including a three-point play by Shanti Henry and a coast-to-coast driving layup by Brooks right before the buzzer.
Zie led Western Nebraska in the first half with eight points while Jones paced the Warriors with 10.