Douglas, Western Nebraska upset No. 1 seed Jones College, 63-60
LUBBOCK, Texas – It would have been a shame for Western Nebraska Community College to lose like that.
After dominating for most of the game on both ends if the floor, 16th-seeded Western Nebraska saw their seemingly comfortable double-digit lead slowly evaporate under the pressure applied from No. 1 seed Jones College. In the end, however, the Cougars found a way to not only stem the tide but turn it in their favor.
Ale’jah Douglass scored a game-high 27 points, and Ky Buell hit a 15-foot jumper from the left side with 13.8 seconds left to her team back in front for good and give Western Nebraska the 63-60 upset of the Bobcats in the second round of the NJCAA Women’s Division I National Championships on Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Buell’s go-ahead bucket and two free throws from Ashley Panem ended a furious comeback for the Bobcats (20-1), who used a 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter and take a 60-59 lead with 29.4 seconds left on a putback by Endia Holliday. But Western Nebraska (17-5) gathered itself and was able to make the plays at the end to pull out the win.
“I thought we played really well tonight,” Western Nebraska head coach Chad Gibney said. “We needed to have our A game and the girls stepped up at every moment, made big shots, came up with big stops too. Just super proud of our team.”
The victory puts the Cougars into the quarterfinals to face either Casper College or Three Rivers Community College on Thursday at 1 p.m.
Jones, which came into the tournament undefeated and 74 points per game, got back into the game in the fourth quarter despite shooting just 23.5 percent (4 of 17) in the period. The Bobcats’ defense limited Western Nebraska to 17.6 percent (3 of 17) from the field, which helped fuel an 8-0 run that turned a 59-52 deficit into a 60-59 lead with 29.4 seconds to play.
But the Cougars recovered as Buell faked a 3-pointt shot and took a dribble inside the line to calmly hit the jumper that put Western Nebraska back in front and end the Jones run. The Bobcats came down and tried to get off a quick shot but missed, and Panem was fouled after grabbing the rebound. She sank two free throws with 5.1 seconds left to seal the win.
“I thought we squeezed, and they still made some good shots, there’s no doubt about it,” Gibney said. But I thought our defense was locked in for 40 minutes and competed really hard.”
Douglas scored 19 of her 27 points in the first half as the Cougars built a 36-24 halftime lead. Jones, however, came out of the gate swinging in the third quarter with a 10-0 run to cut the gap to two.
Western Nebraska answered with a 13-2 run to re-establish the double-digit lead. But, again, Jones closed the third with a 10-3 run to make it a two-possession game, then put together one last run in the fourth quarter to take its first lead since midway through the first quarter.
It wasn’t enough, however, as the Cougars had just enough left in the tank to snatch back the momentum and pull off the upset.
“We knew we had to (withstand a Jones run) if we wanted to keep playing,” Gibney said.
They did, and they are.