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Rustler women open Region IX vs. Western
Central Wyoming College sophomore point guard Jacki Nicholson returns to the lineup on Saturday at the Region IX women's basketball tournament. She hurt her knee on Feb. 11. Photo by Wayne Nicholls

Rustler women open Region IX vs. Western

Mar 9, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Coach Serol Stauffenberg isn't afraid of the draw Central Wyoming College has at 3 p.m. Saturday vs. Western Nebraska in the Region IX women's basketball tournament at Casper College.

At the postseason tournament last year, Western Nebraska outlasted the Rustlers in overtime in the first game. Western Nebraska later lost in the semifinals of the tournament.

"It's somebody that we are familiar with," Stauffenberg said.

Western Nebraska heads into the do-or-die tournament as the No. 3 seed from the Region IX South division, and the Rustlers are the No. 6 seed from the north.

Western's Kyra Peterson (14.0 points per game) and Samantha Sanders (11.4) are the top two players.

"Western's style of play is better for us," Stauffenberg said. "We are not trying to race up and down the floor and keep track of people. If I would have picked one of the top four from the south, it would have been Western."

Western finished the season with a 21-8 mark and was 8-2 in conference play. The single-elimination tournament is made up of the top eight teams from the north and the top eight from the south.

"Western likes to pound the ball inside and crash the boards," Stauffenberg said.

The winner of the game will play the winner of Sheridan College (No. 2 seed/North) and Trinidad State (No. 7 seed/South) at 3 p.m. Sunday in the quarterfinals.

Otero Junior College (27-1) and Casper College (28-2) are the two No. 1 seeds for the tournament.

"Otero and Casper College are neck-and-neck," said Stauffenberg about the favorites.

The title game is 4 p.m. on Tuesday. The winner will advances to the national junior college tournament on March 20-24 in Salina, Kan.

Nicholson back

CWC's Jacki Nicholson will play in the tournament after missing time with a knee injury sustained Feb. 11 vs. Sheridan College.

"Jacki has been practicing for a few days," Stauffenberg said. "She will provide something that we have been missing."

Nicholson was averaging 14 points per game before the injury.

"She is a strong enough athlete that her knee isn't going to bother her," Stauffenberg said. "She will play as much as she can handle. The knee isn't going to be an issue, but she hasn't had a lot of conditioning for four weeks."

Stauffenberg said the key players in the contest vs. Western Nebraska are Elise Keller and Emily Smith.

"Our rebounders need to play well," Stauffenberg said. "We need to control our turnovers. That has been a huge issue with us. We have to take control of the rebounds."

Keller is pulling in 6.6 rebounds per game, and Smith is at 5.2.

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