The No. 17 Wranglers used a strong push in the second half to pull away from Collin County Community College 85-76 on Thursday inside the Tiger Pit at Frenship High School.
Odessa College (25-5) withstood multiple runs from the Cougars (19-10), who seemed to have an answer every time the Wranglers would open up some breathing room.
“The first one is tough,” Odessa College head coach Tra Arnold said. “Collin played tough and we were fortunate to get out of there with a win.”
Odessa College built the lead up to five or six points on multiple occasions, but Collin County kept responding. The Wranglers finally got a little extra breathing room when Keandre Cook hit a 3-pointer with 9 minutes, 9 seconds left in the contest to put his team up 59-52. From there, Odessa College maintained an advantage for the rest of the contest.
Cook came into the game averaging 4.2 points per game and had seen his minutes dwindle during WJCAC play, but with a few Wranglers in foul trouble and the squad facing the potential of playing three games in three days, the 6-foot-5 freshman from Baltimore was given some more time on the court.
Cook took advantage of the situation, finishing with 11 points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
“We’ve worked really hard,” Cook said. “Coach has told me to stay focused on the bench no matter if I get two minutes, three minutes, whatever, just come in and play hard. I can definitely play defense and shoot the ball. I’ll just down whatever I can for my team.”
Arnold said he’s seen Cook work hard though out the season in practice despite not seeing that much time during the season and knew he’d be able to contribute when called upon.
“It talks a lot about his character,” Arnold said of Cook. “He’s practiced hard every day, and coming into this, he had a good week of practice. He just did the things we needed to do to win.”
Cook was one of five Wranglers to finish in double figures as Odessa College continued the balanced offensive attack that has been so successful.
Center Develle Phillips led Odessa College with 15 points, nine rebounds and four blocks while causing problems in the paint whenever the Cougars tried to attack the basket.
Sammy Barnes-Thompkins fought through foul trouble in the second half to finish with 14 points. Point guard Jeremiah Livingston matched Cook with 11 points, and Tyshon Rogers knocked down some late free throws to seal the win on his way to 10 points.
The Cougars enjoyed most of their success in the first half, opening a 24-20 lead at the midpoint of the first half and forcing an Odessa College timeout. The Wranglers responded with a 14-2 spurt and jumped out to a 34-26 advantage. Odessa College didn’t finish the half well though and Collin County cut the Wranglers lead to 36-34 at the break.
The Cougars came back and tied the Wranglers on a pair of occasions, but the Wranglers never trailed in the final 20 minutes and pulled away over the final minutes.
The Wranglers will face a bit of an unexpected opponent in the semifinals in Howard College. The Hawks pulled an upset over No. 7 McLennan Community College 62-59 in the quarterfinals, handing the Highlanders just their second loss of the season.
Odessa College is quite familiar with Howard from their WJCAC encounters, defeating the Hawks twice during the season. Howard gave the Wranglers trouble in Odessa, losing by just two as Odessa College let a big lead slip away in the final four minutes.
“It’s all about playing your best right now, and they played really well,” Arnold said of Howard. “We’re fortunate to win the two times we played them and it’s always hard to win that third one. We’ll have to really be focused in on what we need to accomplish in that game.”
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