LUBBOCK The Odessa College Lady Wranglers used almost every bit of cushion, but had enough in the end.
The Lady Wranglers defeated Harford (Md.) Community College 85-79 in the opening game of the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship at Rip Griffin Center, holding on in the final minutes as the Fighting Owls cut a 17-point deficit to one.
Odessa College coach Ara Baten said the key for the Lady Wranglers was maintaining composure when things got tight.
“I think that’s a real testament to our team and our kids,” Baten said. “Some of them have been here before. The spot wasn’t too big for them. They understand good teams are going to make a run. There was no panic in the huddle, no panic in the timeout. We knew what we had to do and we were still ahead.
“It went 75-72 with 2½ minutes, but we were still up. It didn’t matter how we got here, we’re still up. We took care of the ball, got it to the other end of the floor and then we kind of got settled in again. I’m proud of the kids. A lesser team would have probably folded all the way.”
Odessa College (23-10) advances to the second round to take on No. 1 seed Shelton (Ala.) State College at 2 p.m. Tuesday. Shelton State ended the Lady Wranglers’ season last year in the quarterfinals of the national tournament.
Odessa College saw all five starters score in double figures, led by Chinna Fair and Leticia Soares with 18 points each. Tanaka Gapare added a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Shannon Dozier had 13 points and Amanda Soderqvist added 10.
“We feel like we have people who can score at every position,” Baten said. “If you’re going to take away one thing, we need to take advantage of the others. That’s how we approached the season, that’s how we approached today and that’s how we’ll approach the next one.”
Harford (27-3) was led by Tianna Swearinger with 25 points, Joy Morton with 18 and Ryan Holder with 13. Holder and Morton each had seven rebounds.
Fighting Owls coach Michael Seney said Harford, which trailed 70-53 in the final minute of the third quarter, simply let the Lady Wranglers get too far ahead.
“We ran into a really good team,” Seney said. “Odessa, they’re hot coming in. We figured they’d shoot the ball well. I wish we’d done a better job inside.
“We fought hard throughout the entire game to get back into it in the fourth. It was just a big hole for us early on.”
Harford scored on its first two possessions to take a 5-2 lead, then Soares scored the next two baskets to put Odessa College ahead to stay with 8:50 left in the first quarter. Soderqvist and Dozier combined for three 3-pointers over the next 2:14 to give Odessa College a 10-point advantage.
“The first two possessions, we were able to get penetration,” Seney said. “Then they started to collapse (on defense) and we turned the ball over a little bit, and we missed a lot of shots in the first quarter. The first quarter just didn’t go as planned after the first two or three sequences.
“We saw on film that they do a really good job of helping and collapsing on defense. It was tough. I figured later on we’d start to make shots, it was just too late.”
Harford got within nine briefly in the third quarter, but drew no closer until Swearinger hit two free throws to make it 75-67 with 3:31 to go. Swearinger finished 10 of 12 at the line.
Dozier finished with three 3-pointers as Odessa College hit nine for the game. She said the early surge was the result of being prepared.
“We played the game how we practice,” Dozier said. “Me and Amanda work together at game speed in practice and just follow through in the games.”
Similarly, Soares and Gapare took control inside with Soares recording eight rebounds and seven assists. Julian McDonald added seven points and nine rebounds off the bench as the Lady Wranglers finished with a 51-32 rebounding advantage.
“The saw my best moves,” said Soares, a sophomore post from Brazil. “That’s how I do it in practice, so that’s what I did in the game.”
Baten said the game came down to the Lady Wranglers not having to thing about what to do in different situations, but rather just reacting automatically.
“These two (Dozier and Soares) are a great example of two kids who know what they’re doing,” he said. “They have a great feel for the game. They understand spacing.
“Leti’s a great passer in the post. She understands when they bring two and three people to pitch it out to these guys. That’s kind of what makes then who they are.”
Harford scored the first five points of the fourth quarter to start its comeback, then reeled off nine consecutive points to make it a one-possession game at 75-72 on an Adrienne Jones 3-pointer with 2:42 remaining. Holder scored the Owls’ next four points to make it a one, twice cutting the margin to one, before Odessa College regained control over the final two minutes.
“They’re a very talented team,” Baten said of the Owls, “there’s no doubt about it, and we knew that coming in. You don’t win 27 games unless you’re pretty good, so we knew they were going to be tough. They’ve got talented kids.
“We played good defense at times and they scored any way. We knew it was going to be a difficult game.”
Odessa College 85, Harford CC 79
NJCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
Monday, Rip Griffin Center, Lubbock
ODESSA COLLEGE (23-10)
Tanaka Gapare 7-16 1-2 15, Amanda Soderqvist 2-6 5-6 10, Chinna Fair 6-13 3-3 18, Shannon Dozier 4-13 2-2 13, Leticia Soares 7-11 3-4 18, Kassie Ybarra 1-2 0-0 3, Danyael Goodhope 0-1 0-0 0, Cameryn Wilson 0-1 1-2 1, Julian McDonald 3-7 1-3 7, Wytalla Motta 0-0 0-0 0.. Totals 30-70 16-22 85.
HARFORD COMMUNITY COLLEGE (27-3)
Adrienne Jones 3-5 0-0 8, Jewel Porter 1-4 0-0 3, Shawkia McCallum 3-11 0-1 6, Ryan Holder 3-11 7-12 13, Destinee McQueen 3-4 0-0 6, Elaija DeMeza 0-1 0-0 0, Tianna Swearinger 6-15 10-12 25, Alexis Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Joy Morton 6-10 4-4 18. Totals 25-62 21-29 79.
Odessa College…… 29.. 21 20 15 — 85
Harford CC………….. 16.. 20 18 25 — 79
3-Point goals — Odessa College 9-23 (Gapare 0-1, Soderqvist 1-5, Fair 3-5, Dozier 3-7, Soares 1-1, Ybarra 1-2, Wilson 0-1, McDonald 0-1); Harford 8-19 (Jones 2-3, Porter 1-2, McCallum 0-1, Holder 0-1, McQueen 0-1, Swearinger 3-5, Moore 0-1, Morton 2-5). Total fouls — Odessa College 24, Harford 17. Fouled out — Harford: Morton. Technical fouls — Harford: Bench. Rebounds — Odessa College 51 (Gapare 12), Harbord 32 (Holder 7, Morton 7). Assists — Odessa College 22 (Soares 7), Harford 10 (McCallum 4).
NJCAA NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
At Rip Griffin Center, Lubbock
No. 17 Odessa College 85, No. 16 Harford (Md.) Community College 79
No. 24 Advanced Software Analysis-Brooklyn 60, No. 9 Salt L
ake (Utah) Community College 59
No. 15 San Jacinto College-North 62, No. 18 Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College 51
No. 23 South Georgia Technical College 77, No. 10 Casper (Wyo.) College 65 (OT)
No. 20 Trinity Valley Community College 51, No. 13 Northeastern Oklahoma A&M 38
No. 12 Walters State (Tenn.) Community College 80, No. 21 North Dakota State College of Science 43
No. 14 Northwest Florida State (22-6) vs. No. 19 Panola College (25-6), 10 a.m.
No. 11 Tallahassee (Fla,) Community College (24-6) vs. No. 22 Western Nebraska Community College (29-4), noon
No. 1 Shelton (Ala.) State College (33-0) vs. No. 17 Odessa College (23-10), 2 p.m.
No. 8 New Mexico Junior College (30-3) vs. No. 24 Advanced Software Analysis-Brooklyn (22-1), 4 p.m.
No. 2 Gulf Coast (Fla.) State College (26-2) vs. No. 15 San Jacinto College-North (25-10), 6 p.m.
No. 7 Seward County (Kan.) Community College (30-3) vs. No. 23 South Georgia Technical College (29-5), 8 p.m.