Posted 2 years ago

By Post Staff

Jessica Aratani

Jessica Aratani

The Western Nebraska Community College women’s basketball team is back in the NJCAA national rankings after clawing their way through a season that saw the team undergo a lot of adversity last semester.

WNCC, 12-13, climbed back into the national rankings this week at No. 23. The Cougars are the highest Region IX team in the rankings this week as Sheridan College dropped to No. 25 and Gillette College dropped out of the rankings.

Jessica Aratani, the sophomore from Morrill, said getting back into the rankings is a bonus for the team especially since they have maintained a positive attitude despite all the adversity they have faced this season.

“I feel like we really deserve this,” she said. “We were at the top at the beginning and we know we belong there. Despite all the negative things that have been happening that have put us back, we still keep climbing to get back on top.”

The Cougars were as high as No. 6 in the nation back in December before they had to forfeit 13 games from a ruling from the NJCAA.

Aratani said the team has been motivated ever since and this is a special team this year.

“It really has pushed us more to work harder. We have to earn everything that we done,” she said. “It just keeps pushing us harder and harder because people are pushing us down. But we overcome all the obstacles and are right back on top.

“This team is special. We have really good chemistry on the court and off the court. We know we are good and we know we deserve to be up there. We have a chance to win a region title, which hasn’t been done here in a while. We also have a chance to go to nationals and do some work down there, too.”

Aratani said that there are a lot of ifs or could-have-beens to the season if they would not have had all the misfortune that they have endured. If that was the case, the Cougars would have been 25-0 and possibly number one in the country. The only other time the Cougars were number one in the country was back in February 2005.

“People are out to get us and they know that technically we haven’t lost a game and we have been winning every game in our region so far,” Aratani said. “Like Coach Harnish said, it will make anyone’s year if they knock us off one time and it will make their season. We know people are out to get us. That actually helps us out because they are playing their very best game and it pushes us to work harder and to get ready for the regional tournament.”

This week’s ratings finds a new No. 1 team as Trinity Valley Community College takes over the top spot from previous No. 1 Hutchinson Community College, who drops to No. 3. Central Arizona College (24-1) is at No. 2.

The rest of the top 10 includes sees North Idaho College at No. 4 (24-2), followed by Shelton State (24-0), Chipola College (22-3), Walters State Community College (23-1), Northwest Florida State College (21-3), Blinn College (24-1), and Collin County Community College (22-2).

Moving back into the rankings will be important during the next month as this year’s national tournament will take 24 teams. The 16 regional winners qualify along with the four runner-up teams from a selected four regions. The other four teams will come from at-large bids, which could be decided by the rankings.

The Cougar women will look to stay unbeaten in the South Sub-Region when they travel to Otero Junior College and Trinidad State Junior College this weekend.