It was a battle of Top 15 ranked teams and the No. 14 Western Nebraska Community College men's basketball team earned an overtime-thriller 89-81 win over No. 12 Indian Hills Community College in the first day of the Thanksgiving Classic at Cougar Palace Friday.
The men's contest was a battle where the Cougars battled back from a 14-point, second-half deficit to force overtime tied at 77-77. WNCC then controlled the extra five minutes, outscoring the Warriors 12-4 for their seventh win of the season.
"We knew we had to own the glass. In the first half we had 11 offensive rebounds and then we got misses and got second and third chances," WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer said. "I thought out guys were real gutsy in the last five minutes. I wish we would have had more of it in the first 40."
What the Cougars achieved was never giving up.
"This team has been resilient from the jump," Fehringer said. "We handled adversity on the road and obstacles in our way. They continued to hang in there. We just keep talking about the vision in yourself. We have a long ways to go, a lot of work to do, but tonight it was better defensively then it has been in the past. I just enjoyed watching their passion service at the end of it."
A big key was shooting. Early on in the second half, Indian Hills erupted to hold a 70-56 lead on an 6-0 run to start the half and then later an 11-0 run to lead 70-56. That was when Green took over, scoring six straight points including a monster dunk to cut the lead t0 70-62.
With 3:11 to play, the Cougars finally tied the game at 71-71. The lead went back and forth until Indian Hills held a 77-74 lead with just under a minute to play. Green made one free throw to bring the Cougars to within a bucket and then the Cougar defense stepped up and forced a turnover to get the ball back with 22.8 seconds.
Bryce Sanchious gave the Cougars the momentum as he put back a missed Green shot with 3.5 seconds to play to tie the game to force extra time.
Martin Roub opened the overtime period with a bucket and WNCC ran off seven more points to lead 86-77 before Indian Hills finally scored with a minute to play. The Warriors cut the lead to 86-81 with 37 seconds, but three late free throws sealed the win.
WNCC had six players hit the scoring column. Green led the way with 31 points, including two treys. Roub finished with 17 points followed by Cadet with 15, Sanchious with 11, and Henry Tanksley with 10.
WNCC shot 44 percent from the field but were just 7 of 26 from beyond the arc. The Cougars were also 18 of 28 from the free throw line.
Indian Hills shot 36 percent and they were 13 of 39 from beyond the arc.
Both teams will be in action Friday. Indian Hills will take on Trinidad State Junior College at 2 p.m. Trinidad was a 94-90 winner over Rainy River Community College on Friday. WNCC will face Rainy River at 6 p.m. to conclude the Thanksgiving Classic.
Indian Hills 42 35 4 – 81
WNCC (7-2) 42 35 12 – 89
Devontae Lane 11, Lance Singh 5, Billy Thomas 14, Iziah James 23, Tyon Grant-Foster 1, Tomas Woldetensae 8, JS Muila 2, Anthony Bratton 4, Tyler Chisom 4, Torrey Patton 9.
Rainy River 41 49 – 90
Trinidad State 37 57 – 94
Demetri Henry 7, Brandon Aleide 20, Jesus Alfonso 8, Trey Jones 12, Markest Brown 5, Cleveland Bedgood 13, Josh Jacobs 6, Cedrick Harris 19.
Ian Kelly 8, Prince Wilson 5, Keontae White 22, Bilal Shabazz 13, David Muenkat 7, Nieyeme Smyer-Willams 14, Jeasiah Lewis 5, Aleck Sharma 4, Issac Essein 16.