LUBBOCK, Texas -- The Western Nebraska Community College women's basketball team played tough, but Hutchinson Community College used its physicality in earning an 81-60 win in the opening round of the NJCAA national tournament in Lubbock, Texas, Monday evening.
The Cougars finish the season at 29-4 while Hutchinson moves to 31-3 and will face Angelina College on Wednesday.
WNCC coach Chad Gibney said they just ran into a more physical team.
"We struggled tonight," Gibney said. "Hutchinson did a fantastic job and I have to give all the credit to them. They stifled us offensively and we had a tough time defending them. Hats off to Hutch."
WNCC battled hard, but Hutchinson battled just a little more and the physical side took over.
"They wore us down with their physicality," he said. "They were so physical and they wore us down. We struggled to get easy baskets for sure."
The Cougars played with Hutchison for much of the first half but little runs by the Blue Dragons expanded the lead. Plus, the Cougars couldn't get any shots to fall and get many offensive rebounds.
Allysah Boothe said Hutchinson did the things they needed in the second half.
"It was a good experience for all of us. I just think Hutch out-played us in the second half," the sophomore from Chicago said. "We were hanging with them in the first half but it started to slip away from us. I think our offense needed to be better and more execution and then it would have been a better game. We needed to have more energy throughout the whole game."
WNCC played well in the first quarter, grabbing a 15-10 lead on a Merle Wiehl 3-pointer. After that, Hutchinson closed out the first 10 minutes on a 11-2 run to lead 21-17 after the first quarter.
The second half saw the two teams go toe-to-toe as WNCC trailed 25-21 before Hutchinson went on a 6-0 run to push the lead to 10, 31-21. The Cougars came back to cut the lead to five, 31-26 on a Eva Langton bucket and trailed 37-31 at the half after Tishara Morehouse hit a trey at the buzzer.
The second half was the difference in the game. Hutchinson's defense clamped down and the Cougars were outscored 44-29.
WNCC trailed 61-44 after three quarters and went the first six minutes of the fourth quarter without a bucket before Anyssia Gibbs hit a 3-pointer with four minutes left. WNCC outscored Hutchinson 16-10 in the final four minutes starting with Gibbs' bucket.
WNCC shot 40 percent from the field and was 9 of 32 from beyond the arc. Hutchinson was 41 percent from the field and 7 of 20 from behind the arc.
Free throw shooting was the big difference. WNCC was just 5 of 6 from the charity stripe, while Hutchinson was 18 of 20.
` WNCC had two players in double figures. Wiehl led the way with 17 points, including three treys. She also had three steals. Morehouse tallied 13 points with two treys, R'Manie Pulling, Allysah Boothe, and Anyssia Gibbs each had eight points. Gibbs and Boothe each had two treys,
Pulling led the way with four assists, while Morehouse had three.
WNCC had a great season and Gibney said the players don't need to hang their heads.
"It was an unbelievable season," he said. "I can't say enough about the group we had. We accomplished a ton in such a short time frame. It was a super fun group to coach."
WNCC loses four sophomores from this year's team in Wiehl, Boothe, Langton, and Reljic.
Wiehl, who finished her two-year career at WNCC as the career and season scoring leader, said there is plenty of positives.
"This season was special. We have a great team that was really close on and off the court. Everyone enjoys practice and games," she said. "It was extremely fun; the most fun I have had playing basketball. Even though we lost in Lubbock, we have had a great season at 29-4 overall, undefeated at home, and winning a regional championship. I wouldn't have wanted to spend this year with any other teammates and coaches. We are a family. About next year, I will now go on some visits in the next weeks and go from there."
Other first round scores on Monday at the national tournament saw Florida Southwestern top Cochise 78-75 in overtime, Jones defeated Three Rivers 88-84, Walters State topped Miles 65-47, South Plains rolled over Harford 77-52, and Tyler topped Salt Lake 66-51.
WNCC (29-4) 17 14 13 16 – 60
Hutchinson (31-3) 21 16 24 20 – 81
Abby Ogle 16, Tia Bradshaw 4, Dejanae Roebuck 12, Makayla Vannett 20, Jade Mickens 8, Kelsey Brett 5, Milan Schimmel 6, Tijuana Kimbro 6, Lauryn Mapusua 2, Sara Cramer 2.