WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: No. 2 Odessa College finds second-half footing, defeats South Georgia Tech

LUBBOCK After a slow start, the Odessa College women’s basketball team found a rhythm in the third quarter.

The No. 2 Lady Wranglers outscored No. 15 South Georgia Tech 20-6 in the frame on the way to a 58-44 victory in the NJCAA national tournament Tuesday at the Rip Griffin Center.

Odessa College (29-1) used a strong defensive effort to weather its offensive lulls throughout the contest. The Lady Wranglers recorded 18 steals — their most since the opening game of the season — and forced 28 turnovers by the Lady Jets (30-5) to seal the win.

“It was sluggish at time,” Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said. “I thought we played hard and well defensively. It was a tough start offensively. We had trouble with their size and getting used to it. Overall, we’re happy to win and beat a good team.”

The Lady Wranglers got off to a strong start on the defensive, forcing nine of those turnovers in the opening quarter, but led just 10-8 after the opening 10 minutes.

Odessa College eventually pushed the lead to 19-12 in the second quarter. The Lady Jets had an answer though and closed the half on a 9-2 run over the final 4:51 of the second.

The Lady Wranglers hit just 31 percent from the field and made only 1 of 6 from the free-throw line over the opening two quarters. Meanwhile, South Georgia Tech hit 50 percent of its field goals during the second quarter to get back into the game late in the half.

“At first, our shots weren’t falling, but we managed to work through that,” said guard Dominique Maxwell, who finished with seven points off the bench. “I feel like we’re an experienced team because we’ve been through so much. Our main focus is defense. We kept thinking we needed to get the next stop and stay together as a team. Coach told us that the offense would come and to not worry about that.”

Odessa College converted a few baskets off of more Lady Jet turnovers to start the third as the Lady Wranglers offense found its footing in the second half. Odessa College hit 6 of 11 from 3-point range in the second half as its lead ballooned to as many as 19 points early in the fourth quarter. South Georgia Tech went on a little run in the middle of the quarter, but could get no closer than 11.

South Georgia Tech head coach James Frey told his team at halftime that it would need to hold on the ball if it wanted to advance.

“We had every opportunity in the world to be successful,” Frey said. “We lost our top two scorers a month and a half and a month ago. I know the people in our league counted us out when those two went down. We played four freshmen out there and kept fighting and fighting and fighting.”

Mariah McCully led the Lady Wranglers with 16 points, while Chinna Fair added another 13 in the win. Leticia Soares finished with 11.

Trakyra Kidd scored 12 points to pace the Lady Jets, and Shaineequah Fluellyn chipped in another 10 in the loss.

The Lady Wranglers will be off today before facing No. 10 Shelton State in the quarterfinals.

That game will take place at 3 p.m. on Thursday.

“There are no bad teams. Everybody here deserves to be here,” Baten said.

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