WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: No. 1 Odessa College overcomes slow start to beat Western Texas

After a slow start, the Odessa College women’s basketball team found a way past Western Texas College in the second half.

The No. 1 Lady Wranglers used a 14-4 spurt to start the third quarter on the way to 69-59 victory over the Lady Westerners on Monday at the OC Sports Center.

The victory locked up a share of the WJCAC title for the Lady Wranglers and the No. 1 in the Region V tournament.

“I’m proud of the kids,” OC head coach Ara Baten said. “I was disappointed in the way we played tonight, but that doesn’t take away from what they’ve accomplished and where we stand. I’m proud of what they’ve been able to do in the whole of the season.”

Mariah McCully scored 15 of her game-high 23 points in the first half to keep OC (23-0, 11-0 WJCAC) in the contest, then the Lady Wranglers went to the paint to finish things off as Leticia Soares notched a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“We know that we have players in paint that can get us going and players on the perimeter that can get us going,” said McCully, who hit 8 of 13 from the field including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. “So if we’re in a slump that someone will get us going.”

In the opening two quarters, the Lady Wranglers struggled with the press defense of Western Texas (11-11, 4-7). The Lady Westerners held OC to just 32 percent from the field and forced 11 turnovers in that stretch.

“They’ve been doing some of that. It was a little different tonight than what we’ve seen,” Baten said of the full court pressure. “We just didn’t handle it very well.”

OC headed into the half on a high note, scoring the final six points to knot the score at 28-28. The Lady Wranglers then surged ahead with the 14-4 run to take the lead in the third quarter.

“I think that was probably the difference in the game,” Baten said. “That 10 minutes at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half was the difference.”

OC still had problems maintaining possession over the final two quarters against the press, turning the ball over 11 more times. But the Lady Wranglers were able to convert the opportunities they did get at a much better rate, knocking down 14 of 23 from the field during the final 20 minutes.

“We started off slow and they gave it to us right off the bat,” McCully said. “We had to step up or back down. We decided to step up. We were playing to their potential and coach said that we need to play to ours.”

The Lady Wranglers dominated the rebounding department, finishing with a 42-29 advantage including a 16-9 edge on the offensive glass.

LaLa Robinson added 11 points in the win for OC.

Mayra Garcia led Western Texas in the loss with 14 points, while Catara Samuel scored another 12.

OC returns to the court on Tuesday when they travel to Big Spring for a matchup with Howard College.