Keandre Cook never doubted.
He knows just what his team was capable of doing.
Trailing big in the second half, with an undefeated conference record, a long winning streak and a No. 5 national ranking all hanging over the Odessa College bench as the game clock ticked down and the deficit kept growing, the Wranglers could have crumbled.
Instead, they kept confident.
"We did it before, so I knew we could do it again," Cook said later.
Just like that, the Wranglers did it again, overcoming a 17-point deficit to defeat Frank Phillips College 83-80 Thursday in the OC Sports Center, and extend their winning streak to 11 games and move to 9-0 in the WJCAC.
The chances of that streak continuing seemed dire at plenty of points, especially when back-to-back turnovers by the Wranglers in their own backcourt led to Frank Phillips' baskets, with the second putting the visitors up 53-36 three minutes into the second half.
But the Wranglers chipped at that lead from there, and pulled away for the improbable win in the final minutes.
Cook put together a hot streak to cut into that lead midway through the second half. LJ Figueroa knocked down a pair of big 3-pointers in the final two minutes, and Jermaine Haley was clutch from the free-throw line in the waning seconds, as the Wranglers' stars pushed Odessa College to another victory.
"We found a way to win," head coach Tra Arnold said.
"When you find a way in these close games like that, you'll take it and just keep moving on."
After they trailed by 17, the Wranglers started inching their way back into it, cutting the lead to single digits. Cook drew a foul and knocked down a free throw to make it a seven-point game at 58-51 as the game clock ticked to the 10-minute mark.
That was the beginning Cook's run. After that free throw, and a pair of free throws by teammate JJ Simpson, Cook scored from the baseline, drew a foul and hit one free throw, then, after a Frank Phillips basket, breezed by a defender with a pump fake and nailed a mid-range jump shot to make it a one-point game at 60-59.
Just as Frank Phillips answered with a big 3-pointer, Cook nailed a clutch 3-point response of his own to keep it a one-point game at 63-62 with 7:30 left.
"Second half, I had to pick it up when my team was down," Cook said.
"My teammates put me in position to score the ball."
Cook scored 17 points while Haley added another 16.
Figueroa led the Wranglers with 22 points, and it was his two game-changing 3-pointers that turned the tide for Odessa College.
Frank Phillips tried to keep Odessa College at bay after Cook's hot streak, but Haley's drive and score tied the game at 71-71 with less than three minutes to go. After an exchange of scoreless possessions, Figueroa drained a 3-pointer to give Odessa College its first lead of the second half at 74-71 with 1:40 left.
In the final minute, after Odessa College fought to hold that three-point lead, Figueroa doubled the advantage with another 3-pointer to make it 79-73 with 30 seconds left, and the Wranglers held on.
"We always stay confident," said Haley, who hit foul shots in the last minute to help seal the win. "We've been down in a few games and we know that if we all stick together, and we turn it on, then we can be a great team, and we can beat any team."
With the winning streak intact and the Wranglers still flying high in the national polls, Odessa College will have a Monday off before hosting New Mexico Military Institute next Thursday.
"We've just got to make sure we stay locked in. We haven't really won anything yet," Haley said.
Thursday, though, the Wranglers managed to keep on track.
"We found a way to win the game," Arnold said.
"It wasn't pretty. But you try to get better and you move forward."
Article by Justin Lee OA
Photo by Jacob Ford OA