WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL: No. 1 Odessa College pulls away, downs Howard College

After a sluggish start, the No. 1 Odessa College women’s basketball team found its rhythm in the second half.

The Lady Wranglers used an 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter to sprint away from Howard College on the way to a 66-53 victory on Monday night at the OC Sports Center.

“I thought that was the difference,” Lady Wranglers’ head coach Ara Baten said. “That first four or five minutes of the third quarter gave us some separation and I thought we played really good for about a four or five minute stretch.”

OC (17-0, 5-0 WJCAC) had more energy on the defensive end in the second half and held the Lady Hawks to just 7 of 26 from the field over the final two quarters. That defensive pressure led to 18 points off of turnovers for the Lady Wranglers.

Mariah McCully and Chinna Fair each scored 20 points in the victory for the OC, while making their presence known on the defensive end as well. McCully notched five steals, while Fair added three.

“I thought both of them played really good on defense and they got a lot of offense from playing well off defense,” Baten said about the duos’ ability to turn those steals into transition baskets.

McCully also finished with a team-high 10 rebounds and six assists. Fair was the primary threat from the outside for OC, hitting four of the Lady Wranglers’ six 3-pointers in the game.

“We just had to come out and play our game, get in transition and run,” Fair said. “Our defense leads to our offense, so if we work hard on D, it will transition to our offense.”

In the first half, Howard College (7-13, 3-3) was able to keep things close with some strong shooting from DeAuja Thompson. The Hawks’ freshman finished with 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. Thompson also added 10 rebounds in the loss.

While Thompson tried to keep the Hawks within striking distance, the Lady Wranglers clamped down of the rest of the Howard squad, holding it to just 12 of 43 from the field in the game as no other Hawks player scored in double figures.

“You can’t simulate how good they shoot it in practice,” Baten said.  “I think it took a while to realize that if you give them any space, they’re going to shoot it. We tried to tighten it up a little bit. We still had some breakdowns, even in the second half, but I thought we got better at getting tighter to their shooters.”

OC struggled on the glass through much of the first half. Howard outrebounded the Lady Wranglers 18-15 in the first half and held OC without an offensive rebound for the opening 20 minutes. That changed in the second half when OC grabbed three offensive rebounds on the second possession of the half before scoring and sparking the 11-0 run that gave the Lady Wranglers some breathing room for the rest of the contest.

“The kids know what they need to do and I think they made a commitment to those little things,” Baten said.

Leticia Soares scored 11 points and added seven rebounds off the bench for OC.

Next up for the top-ranked Lady Wranglers will be No. 22 Midland College at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at the Chaparral Center. The Lady Chaparrals are coming off a 76-57 loss to No. 6 New Mexico Junior College on Monday.