By Ken McDowell
Sophomore guard Aleksandra Ratnikava netted 31 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter, to help lift the Northeastern Junior College (NJC) Plainswomen to a 63-57 Region IX South win Tuesday over the McCook, Neb. Community College Lady Indians in the Bank of Colorado Event Center.
With their second straight win, the Plainswomen improve to 11-10 overall and 3-3 in Region IX South. A solid McCook squad falls to 16-6 overall and 3-3 in Region IX South.
NJC had to continually fight off McCook throughout the entire contest, giving up the lead a couple of times in the fourth quarter until Ratnikava scored eight points in the final two minutes to seal the deal.
NJC led by as many as 10 points in the opening frame when Ratnikava scored six points and freshman Brionna McBride hit a trey. McCook came back to close the lead to 17-10 in favor of the Plainswomen at the end of the first quarter and made things even more interesting to trail by only one at halftime, 29-28.
The contest followed the same script in the third period with the Plainswomen pulling out to an eight-point lead before McCook once again battled back to take a 39-38 lead with 3:00 remaining.
But contributions came from other players when McBride scored back-to-back hoops and a bucket by freshman Taelor Jackson gave NJC a 44-39 lead going into the fourth quarter.
But with back-to-back hoops by McBride and a bucket by freshman Taelor Jackson the Plainswomen reclaimed a 44-39 lead going into the fourth quarter
McCook enjoyed its biggest lead of the game at 55-52 before the Plainswomen scored eight straight points, two by Jackson and six straight by Ratnikava to give the Plainswomen a 60-55 cushion.
McCook got within three before Ratnikava nailed two free throws in the final seconds to clinch the victory.
"Sticking to the game plan" was the key to NJC's win, according to Coach Dave Huss.
"We executed really well down the stretch and stuck to the game plan and the things we talk about," he said. "We also played good defense, especially down the stretch.
"We got some big shots from Ratnikava and a couple of other kids had big buckets, so it was execution that got us the win and I can't stress that enough."
The Plainswomen are being hit hard by the injury bug with only eight players suited up for Tuesday's game and according to Huss, possibly down to six in a couple of days.
"We are not yet near where I want to be right now," he said. "We have eight kids at practice most of the time and we will be down to six in a couple of days.
"The thing is that we are 11-10 right now and we are really battling, so I can't compliment our girls enough. We are giving ourselves a chance to win every game and executing a little better but we need to keep working hard on keep winning."
The Plainswomen will host North Platte, Neb. Community College Saturday in the annual Hoops Homecoming contest in the Bank of Colorado Event Center. Tip-off time is 4 p.m.
NJC will then go on a four-game road trip to Lamar Community College Tues., Feb. 11; Western Nebraska Community College Thurs., Feb. 13; Otero Junior College Tues., Feb. 18 and Trinidad State College Fri., Feb. 21 to close out the regular season.