The Odessa College Wranglers bounced back from a rare loss to defeat Clarendon College 75-59 in WJCAC action Thursday at the OC Sports Center, clinching a share of the conference title in the process.
The third-ranked Wranglers (23-3 overall, 13-1 WJCAC) hold a two-game lead over South Plains College with two games remaining. After a game against New Mexico Junior College on Monday, Odessa College closes out the regular season at South Plains on March 1.
J.J. Simpson scored 17 points and L.J. Figueroa added 14 off the bench to lead a balanced Odessa College effort. Jermaine Haley finished with nine points, six rebounds and six assists, Keandre Cook had eight points and Josh Boyd had six points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
While Odessa College, which had a 14-game winning streak end with Monday's 78-77 overtime loss at Howard College, led by as much as 28 points in the second half Thursday, Wranglers coach Tra Arnold said it wasn't as easy as it looked.
"Clarendon's a good team," Arnold said. "They're in fourth in the league. We had two good days of practice and the guys responded well. Still, there was a little lull in that game."
With two games remaining in the regular season, Arnold said, now is the time for the Wranglers to start putting everything together for the NJCAA Region V tournament.
"We've got a game Monday (at New Mexico Junior College) and hopefully we can continue to play and get better as we go through the last week of conference play," Arnold said. "We want to be playing better when we go to the regional tournament. I did think we played better tonight."
Odessa College never trailed and slowly built a 13-point halftime lead, then blew the game open with a 15-0 run to start the second half to go up 57-28.
"It actually gets harder, in my opinion, when you're playing with a lead because you've got to stay focused and locked in and not let teams come back into the game," said Odessa College post Jahnathan Maxwell, who finished with seven points. "It looks easy, but it takes a lot of mental ability to stay focused on the game."
Maxwell said that while the Wranglers were in control at the half, some little tweaks made the difference.
"We realized how much size we had on them, then we made some halftime adjustments so we stopped getting called for offensive fouls in the post," he said. "Then we were really locked in on defense and wouldn't let them score."
The Bulldogs (18-10, 8-6) didn't score in the second half until P.J. Corbin's basket with 14:57 left in the game and didn't get closer than 19 points until the final minute.
Reece Brooks scored 11 points to lead Clarendon College with Edwon Brady and Xavier Trent adding eight points apiece.
Odessa College finished 30 of 59 from the floor (50.8 percent) while holding Clarendon College to 31.1 percent shooting (19 of 61). The Wranglers finished with a 48-28 rebounding advantage.
Article by Sam Waller OA
Photo by Jacob Ford OA