COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa – Merle Wiehl and Jaleesa Avery each finished with 17 points as the No. 25 Western Nebraska Community College women's basketball team won the top 25 showdown with a 65-53 win over Iowa Western Community College Friday in the first day of the Holiday Inn/Hampton Inn Classic.
WNCC head coach Chad Gibney was pleased with the way they played.
"I thought we did a much better job of competing and staying together. We were fortunate to make the shots tonight," he said. "Iowa Western is a really good team, and we showed what we are capable of when we come out and play our style of basketball."
The Cougars held a 14-11 lead after the first quarter and really opened the game in the second quarter, outscoring the Reivers 18-12 to take a 32-23 lead at intermission.
WNCC continued playing strong in the second half, building a 42-33 lead on an Avery jumper and later by nine points on an Avery 3-pointer. WNCC led 51-42 after three.
The Cougars led by double digits in the fourth quarter, at 62-51 on a big Melisa Kadic bucket and the two free throws.
WNCC never trailed in the contest, leading from start to finish and really wasn't in danger of losing the lead either as the Cougar defense held Iowa Western to 37 percent shooting.
WNCC, on the other hand, shot 43 percent for the game.
What kept the Reivers at bay was the Cougars defense and running their style of ball.
"We talked about the man-to-man press defense and running and jumping a little bit," Gibney said. "We are fortunate to have good play players make good decisions. We want to put the ball in our playmakers' hands. We really worked on playing numbers, playing 3-on-2 this week. I thought that was beneficial to us."
WNCC had three players in double figures. Wiehl and Avery each had 17 points to lead the team. Wiehl also had six rebounds while Avery pulled down seven boards. Melisa Kadic chipped in 14 points for the Cougars, including two 3-pointers.
Gibney said Wiehl is a talent on the court.
"She is a talent. No doubt about it," he said. "She is so versatile and she has great size for her position. We want to put her in position to be successful and have her with the ball because not only can she create for herself but she can create for others as well. She is a match-up nightmare at the point/forward position."
WNCC, 3-1, will continue play in the Classic when they face Division II No. 2 ranked Johnson County Community College on Saturday. Johnson County defeated Briar Cliff junior varsity by 50-plus points in the early game on Friday.
Gibney said Johnson County is a top-notch program.
WNCC (3-1) 14 18 19 14 – 65
Iowa Western (2-1) 11 12 19 11 – 53
Zheniah Jackson 7, Naomie Alnatas 7, Delia Ania Gaja 4, Jazza Johns 10, Kiara Dallmann 8, Zhane Williams 10, Elsa Pardo 2, Miya Bull 4.