By Tony Venegas
The Odessa College basketball team found itself in a rare position so far this season: playing from behind.
Despite the circumstances, the Wranglers were able to erase that deficit.
Dancell Leter’s tip-in with 25.6 seconds remaining and a pair of Isaiah Turner free throws proved to be the difference as Odessa College defeated Howard College 88-85 in Western Junior College Athleic Conference Saturday at the OC Sports Center.
The Wranglers remained unbeaten on the season after trailing by as many as 14 points in the first half.
“Give credit to Howard College because they were really well prepared and competed at a high level,” Odessa College head coach Kris Baumann said. “I just thought the difference in the game was that they ran out of gas at the end.
“I thought we made some huge plays down the stretch and that we competed until the final horn.”
Baumann singled out performances by sophomore guard Aquarn Butler and forward Shakeem Alcindor. The duo finished with 20 points each with Alcindor grabbing eight rebounds and Butler adding four assists and four steals.
Odessa College (9-0 overall, 2-0 WJCAC) took an early 6-2 lead before Howard College (4-2, 1-2) took control in the first half with a 19-3 run. Rodney Smith was the catalyst for the Hawks, finishing with a game-high 22 points with Jacoby Bishop adding 16.
Odessa College got back to within seven points late in the half before Smith made three free throws after being fouled at the end of the half give Howard College a 51-38 halftime lead.
The Wranglers responded strongly in the second half, starting the final 20 minutes on a 10-0 run.
The Hawks had an answer for nearly every Odessa College basket and were able to get their lead back to 10 at 78-68 with 8:04 remaining.
Odessa College chipped away down the stretch starting with Butler banking in 3-pointer to make it 84-80 with 1:43 to go, then added another layup after a Wranglers steal.
Alcindor’s layup on the next possession brought the Wranglers even at 84-84 with 1:05 to go.
Howard College briefly recaptured the lead on a Zach Mackson free throw. He missed the second, however, setting the stage for Leter’s putback off an Alcindor layup. Odessa College finished the game by shooting 71.4 percent in the second half.
Howard College did have one final chance in the last 6.5 seconds but the running jump shot did not fall as the Wranglers were able to seal the game with Turner’s free throws.
>> Follow Tony Venegas on Twitter at @OA_TVenegas
Odessa College’s Shakeen Alcindor (32) attempts a shot from the paint in the first half of their game against Howard College Saturday afternoon at the Odessa College Sports Center.