Cougar Men Ranked No. 20 in NJCAA Poll.

WNCC Sports Info|Dec. 21, 2017

SCOTTSBLUFF-The Western Nebraska Community College men’s basketball team is being rewarded for its first half play earning a spot in the NJCAA Top 20 for the first time in since 2012.

The Cougars, who won a 10-game winning streak after finishing the first semester with a 12-2 record, entered the NJCAA men’s basketball Top 25 polls this week at No. 20. WNCC is just one of four Region IX teams that earned recognition this week.

Gillette College is ranked No. 10 at 14-0 followed by Sheridan College ranked 18th at 14-1. Trinidad State Junior College received votes this week.

WNCC head coach Cory Fehringer says the rankings are nice, but there is more on the docket than the polls.

“I think it is a testament to the commitment the kids showed to get better each and every day,” the second-year WNCC head coach said. “I think all the players and coaches are aware that it doesn’t change the way that we feel we have to work in practice to continue to grow.”

The last time the Cougar men were ranked in the Top 20 was back on Feb. 7, 2012, when they were ranked as high as 11th in the nation. That season, the Cougars were ranked in the top 20 for three straight weeks, before finishing the season with a 26-7 record.

Fehringer said the ranking is for the community more for the team since the community supports the Cougar teams. He said the community deserves the honor.

“We are excited for our community to have the opportunity to be a part of it,” he said. “We are just glad that the community gets to be a part of this. When I took that job in Scottsbluff I said this was what we were going to do. We were going to play hard and play together, and we were going to try to represent the community of Scottsbluff with class.”

This year’s Cougar team, however, isn’t too bad either. The Cougars are the 10th highest scoring team in the nation, averaging 102.1 points a game. WNCC’s only two losses came to the College of Southern Idaho the first weekend of the season and then to then No. 5-ranked Salt Lake Community College. Since that Salt Lake loss, the Cougars have run off 10 straight wins, including scoring 100 or more points in seven of the 10 wins.

“We have been focused in increasing possessions and playing with controlled chaos,” Fehringer said. “We want to play fast, play faster and speed up offensively and speed up defensively. We just want the players to have a really good pace and good space. Then, you need to trust them in making decisions. They grow up each and every day, making better decisions on the floor as they play more games.”

The WNCC players will return to practice Dec. 31 for home Region IX South sub-region contests Jan. 5 against Laramie County Community and then Jan. 6 against Trinidad State Junior College.

Fehringer said the goal is to host the Region IX tournament and that entails defending their home court and taking care of business on the road.

“Our personalities and our mindsets is not to be concerned about national rankings or statistics,” Fehringer said. “We want to have a great experience and we want to make sure that a number has nothing to do with who hosts the Region IX South. Ultimately, the main objective is to protect home court, win on the road, and have the opportunity to play in front of Western Nebraska fans for the Region IX tournament.”

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