The Odessa College men’s and women’s basketball teams look to earn return trips to their respective NJCAA national tournaments this weekend as the NJCAA Region V tournaments get under way today at Wolfforth Frenship High School’s Tiger Pit.
A year ago, both the Wranglers and Lady Wranglers won regional titles to qualify for the national tournaments with both teams advancing to the quarterfinals. This season, Odessa College is the lone Western Junior College Athletic Conference member to qualify men’s and women’s teams to regional.
The Wranglers (26-3) open play at 8 tonight against Temple College (23-7).
Odessa College, ranked No. 7 nationally, earned the regional tournament’s No. 1 seed after going 15-1 to win the WJCAC title. Temple College ranks second in the nation in scoring at 107.1 points per game.
Odessa College coach Tra Arnold said the Wranglers have to make a quick adjustment to postseason play after grinding through the conference schedule.
“In conference play, we saw and played each team twice,” Arnold said. “Now, we’re opening up with a team we haven’t played all year and really haven’t seen all year. We’re not as familiar with who they are and what they do, but we’re getting prepared for them.”
While the Wranglers have won the regional tournament the last two years, Arnold said the team must be focused on the task at hand on Wednesday.
“I know it’s a cliche, but you’ve got to win the first game before you can go to the second game, and that’s all we’re focused on,” he said. “We’re focused on Temple College.”
Wednesday’s winner will play the Howard College-Collin County Community College winner at 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The men’s championship game is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Odessa College women (19-10) open play at 1 p.m. Thursday against No. 17 Collin County Community College (26-4), which won the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference title.
The Lady Wranglers have had an up-and-down season, overcoming a 1-4 start in conference to qualify. When on, Odessa College has shown it can play with the top teams in the country. The Lady Wranglers handed then-No. 2 New Mexico Junior College its first loss of the season, 66-57 on Jan. 25 at home, and took the Thunderbirds down to the wire in the Feb. 26 rematch before losing 71-69 at Hobbs, N.M.
“For us, at least from the mental side of it, we’ve kind of been in tournament mode for about six weeks,” Lady Wranglers coach Ara Baten said. “We were in a position where if we lost, we were going to be out. We’ve already been in a position where we had to win or we’re out. As far as that goes, this is not going to be something new for us.
“Physically, the team we’re playing is really talented. It’s going to present some challenges for us. We’ll see how prepared we are. I hope we’re ready.”
Baten said the Lady Wranglers will have to be at their best for three consecutive days to have a chance in the regional tournament.
“We’re still looking for consistency,” he said. “We’re going to have to defend. When we guard, we’re pretty good. When we don’t, we struggle.”
Thursday’s winner will play the Midland College-Hill College winner at 6 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The women’s championship is set for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
Game 1 — Clarendon College (19-11) vs. McLennan Community College (26-4), 1 p.m.
Game 2 — South Plains College (20-8) vs. Ranger College (22-8), 3 p.m.
Game 3 — Howard College (22-8) vs. Collin County Community College (20-9), 6 p.m.
Game 4 — Odessa College (26-3) vs. Temple College (23-7), 8 p.m.
Game 1 — Odessa College (19-10) vs. Collin County Community College (26-4), 1 p.m.
Game 2 — Midland College (17-10) vs. Hill College (18-12), 3 p.m.
Game 3 — Frank Phillips College (23-5) vs. Weatherford College (19-8), 6 p.m.
Game 4 — New Mexico Junior College (28-2) vs. Ranger College (21-9), 8 p.m.
Game 5 — Winner 1 vs. Winner 2, 1 p.m.
Game 6 — Winner 3 vs. Winner 4, 3 p.m.
Game 5 — Winner 1 vs. Winner 2, 6 p.m.
Game 6 — Winner 3 vs. Winner 4, 8 p.m.
Game 7 — Semifinal winners, 2 p.m.
Game 7 — Semifinal winners, 4:30 p.m.