Western Nebraska surges past South Plains for first semifinal berth in 19 years.
LUBBOCK, Texas – Payton Fields scored 13 points, five of which came during a decisive 13-0 run midway through the fourth quarter, and Western Nebraska rallied for a 63-51 victory over South Plains College in the quarterfinals of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship on Saturday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Aminata Zie had 12 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Cougars, who trailed 44-41 with 6:34 to play before surging into the lead as four different players contributed to the run, capped by a layup from Ale’jah Douglass with 2:47 to play to put Western Nebraska up 54-44.
“I think we showed a lot of resiliency there having dug ourselves a hole, and we just stayed with it, were aggressive and tough. Really proud of our group and we’re excited to keep playing.
“I just think we were able to increase the tempo of the game. Defensively our pressure really started to wear on them as well as our depth, then I thought we put a lot of pressure on the rim with our dribble penetration, and we got into some good stuff; our guards do a great job of playing downhill.”
With the win, Western Nebraska (31-2) advances to Sunday’s semifinals to face Tyler Junior College at 4 p.m. with a shot at the title game on the line. It is the first time the Cougars have made the final four of the national tournament since 2003.
SPC pulled to within 54-47 on a 3-pointer by Celia Sumbane with 2:17 to play but would not hit another shot from the field until 13 seconds remained in the game, with the outcome well in hand for the Cougars. Western Nebraska sealed the win with six free throws in the final minute of the game.
“We just kept playing hard and good things started to happen,” said guard Amani Brown, whose three-point play during the run put the Cougars up 49-44 with 5:11 to play. “That led to a lot of other good things.”
Douglas also had 12 points for the Cougars before fouling out late in the game.
Ashala Moseberry led the Texans (22-9) with 11 points and Raija Todd chipped in 10.
The Cougars dominated on the inside, outscoring South Plains 36-6 on points in the paint and iced the game by hitting 70 percent (7 of 10) from the field in the fourth quarter while holding South Plains to just 17.6 percent (3 of 17) in the final 10 minutes.
“We just really had to knock them off their square,” said guard Matrice Brooks, who had nine points in the win. “Play fast. They’re a really good structure team and with that kind of team we had to just knock them off the square, and (put some) pressure.”
The Cougars trailed at halftime but opened the third quarter with a11-0 run as Zie had a pair of buckets and Fields hit a 3-pointer from the corner. Matrice Field also had a free throw and layup to put Western Nebraska up 35-30.
South Plains came right back, however, to close the quarter on a 7-0 run, all seven points coming from Matilda Soderlund, to take a 39-37 lead into the fourth quarter. Again the Cougars started strong to open the fourth as Douglass hit back-to-back buckets to put them back in the lead, but South Plains again responded with five points, including a 3-pointer from Viktoria Ivanova that put the Texans up 44-41.
From there, though, it would be all Western Nebraska.
Western Nebraska jumped out to the early lead and threatened to run away early. A 3-pointer by Douglas and a bucket inside by Brooks put the Cougars up 9-3 early in the game.
But the Texans settled down and surged into the lead thanks to a 12-0 run to end the quarter. Down 11-6, Zie started the run with a pair of free throws and Moseberry followed with back-to-back 3-pointers that put SPC up 14-11. Two free throws from Sumbane and a jumper from the free-throw line by Raija Todd pushed the lead to 18-11 going into the second quarter.
Todd then added two free throws to start the second quarter. Payton Fields hit a trey for Western Nebraska before SPC scored seven straight points, including 3-pointers from Todd and Moseberry to push the lead to 27-14 with 6:44 to play in the first half.
Western Nebraska, however, closed the second quarter on a 10-3 run with buckets by five different players to cut the deficit to 30-24 at the intermission.
Moseberry finished the first half with 11 points and Todd had 10, while Amani Brown led Western Nebraska with six.