SCOTTSBLUFF, Neb. – The Eastern Wyoming College Lady Lancers played their way into their first Region IX championship game since 1979 but fell to Western Nebraska in the finals to finish as the runner-ups in Scottsbluff, Neb. over the weekend.
“It will take a long time for the disappointment to wear off and the silver lining to shine through, so to speak,” coach Tom Anderson said. “We peaked at the right time and had a great season and you just don’t want it to end that way.”
WNCC 53, EWC 51
Emily Evans drained a three-pointer to start the game and put the Lady Lancers on the board first against the Lady Cougars. WNCC roared back to take an 11-10 lead heading into the second. The shots from deep started falling for EWC in the second, with Evans hitting two and Carna Prokic hitting one early in the frame to put the Lady Lancers up 21-16. Evans had EWC’s final seven points of the first half, as the Lady Lancers held a 31-28 advantage at the break.
“The more success you have the more shots you hit,” Anderson said of EWC’s run in the second and into the third quarter. “We played some great defense during that stretch as well.”
After intermission, The Lady Lancers grew their lead to seven points, but the Lady Cougars clawed back to within three with a quarter to go. Again in the fourth, EWC had a seven-point advantage, but WNCC came back to tie the game up at 49 with 3:56 remaining. In the same minute, the host Lady Cougars hit a bucket to take a lead, but Sarag Bersang banked in a lay up to knot things up at 51 with under two minutes to go.
EWC had the ball after a timeout with 51.3 seconds remaining, but the Lady Cougars came up with a steal and hit the breakaway lay up to take a 53-51 lead with 14.5 seconds left. The Lady Lancers were unable to get a good look at the basket and a last-second heave did not fall, giving the title to WNCC.
“They made some plays and it just comes down to one basket at the end there. Both teams played all out at the end,” Anderson said. “We just didn’t get a good shot and I guess that’s the way the ball bounces.”
Evans spent all but two minutes on the floor for EWC and she paced the Lady Lancers in scoring, with 23 points, shooting 8-of-14 from the floor and 5-of-8 from behind the arc. She added five boards, two assists and two steals on the night. She was the only Lady Lancer in double-figures.
Anna Perez Gomez amassed nine points on the night on 4-of-9 shooting. She was one of four Lady Lancers with four boards against WNCC. Gomez paced EWC in assists, with three. Pamela Bethel topped the stat sheet with 12 boards, with six coming on each end of the floor. She chipped in four points, a steal and a block in Scottsbluff.
Rounding out the starters, Bersang and Prokic each contributed seven points and four boards. They combined for an assist and two steals.
In the loss, EWC shot 33 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep. The Lady Lancers left five points at the charity stripe, shooting 8-of-13. WNCC shot 34 percent from the field, 25 percent from deep and 80 percent from the line.
“We had great fan support throughout the whole tournament and especially in the championship game,” Anderson said. “They made a lot of noise and it was a great atmosphere.”
EWC 52, Trinidad State 46
In semi-final action, EWC took on Trinidad State Junior College on Friday in Scottsbluff. The Lady Lancers got off to a hot start, taking a 13-5 lead after the first and a 27-16 advantage into the break.
“I think people underestimate Trinidad State. They’re probably one of the best defensive teams in the region, Anderson said. “It was good we got out to an early lead against them.”
Coming out of halftime, Trinidad State closed the gap after outscoring EWC 13-9 in the third. Up seven heading into the fourth, the Lady Lancers managed to hold on for the six-point win.
“Their defense definitely had a factor in the comeback and our offense struggled a bit but we hit some big shots and got the win,” Anderson said.
Bersang was the top scorer against Trinidad State, racking up 16 points, including 10 from the charity stripe. She added two boards and an assist to her stat sheet. Prokic was also in double-digits, racking up 12 points, four boards and an assist.
Evans and Bethel led the Lady Lancers on the glass, coming down with eight rebounds apiece. They both each chipped in four points and combined for two assists and a block. Katrina Terrell and Jessica Rossi both came off the bench to contribute four points. Terrell hauled in seven boards on the night.
In the win, EWC shot 30 percent from the field and only 16 percent from behind the arc. The Lady Lancers left eight points at the free-throw line, where they shot 17-of-25. Trinidad State shot 29 percent from the field and could only hit 2-of-22 from three-point land.
EWC 75, WWCC 66
The Lady Lancers got their tournament run started with an upset over Western Wyoming Community College on Thursday. EWC held a 13-10 lead after the first and outscored the Lady Mustangs 16-15 in the second to have a four-point advantage at the break.
Heading into the fourth, the Lady Lancers were up 48-42 over the Lady Mustangs. Western Wyoming poured in 24 points in the fourth in a comeback effort, but EWC put up 27 points of their own to seal the win.
“I think our kids were pretty motivated in that game,” Anderson said. “That team beat us by 30 earlier this season and knocked us out of the playoffs last year so we had a lot of motivation.”
Four Lady Lancers were in double-figures, with Gomez (21 points) and Evans (20 points) eclipsing the 20-point mark. The two combined for 12 boards, three assists and a steal.
Bersang added 15 points, seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. Prokic led the way in rebounds, with nine on the night, paired with four assists, two steals and 10 points. Rossi came off the bench and racked up eight rebounds in 11 minutes on the court.
EWC shot better from the field (39 percent) than WWCC did (33 percent), but the Lady Mustangs had the advantage from behind the arc, 32 percent to 28 percent. EWC did knock down 18-of-25 from the charity stripe, while the Lady Mustangs hit 11-of-19. As a team, the Lady Lancers outrebounded Western Wyoming 53-36.
The Lady Lancers finished the season 22-12, with an 11-6 record in the conference. This was the first season that the EWC women have finished runner-up at the Region IX Tournament. They took the title in 1978 and 1979. WNCC will represent Region IX at the NJCAA Tournament in Lubbock, Texas on March 20-25.