Fresh off an open date, the Odessa College Wranglers came out running Thursday to take an 84-66 victory against outmanned New Mexico Military Institute in Western Junior College Athletic Conference men's basketball action at the OC Sports Center.
The Broncos suited up just six players and Odessa College pushed the pace from the start, repeatedly scoring in transition.
"We've had to play a couple games with some guys down," Wranglers coach Tra Arnold said. "We had some guys injured tonight, even.
"At this time of year, you look on TV and see close games in conference all the time in conference play. Any time right now you can get a close one.
"You've got to protect your home floor. We're fortunate enough we played good in spurts. Hopefully we'll continue to grow and get better the next six games for the season."
With the victory, fifth-ranked Odessa College (21-2 overall, 10-0 WJCAC) clinched a berth in the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament. The Wranglers, who have six games remaining, can do no worse than tie NMMI (15-10, 5-6) for fourth place and own a sweep of the head-to-head meetings with the Broncos.
Keandre Cook scored 20 points to lead the Wranglers, going 4 of 7 from 3-point range, while L.J. Figueroa had 17 points and eight assists. Jermaine Haley added 13 points and six assists with J.J. Simpson scoring 12 points and Braxton Shaw adding 11 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Jaylan Williams led NMMI with 23 points, while Rodel Hurley scored 13. Matt Brown and Jordyn Owens each had 10 points for the Broncos.
Haley helped set the tone with a pair of steals that resulted in breakaway baskets to get the Wranglers going.
"Coach told us before they game they were going to be missing a few dudes, so we knew that we had to pick up our intensity," Haley said. "We haven't been coming out real strong lately. We just decided that today was the day that we would get everything together and come out as a team."
Shaw came in and converted a pair of three-point plays to give Odessa College a 23-13 lead midway through the first half and led by 18 before going scoreless for the final three minutes of the half. The Broncos were able to close to within six early in the second half, but the Wranglers regained control with a 12-0 run and led by double figures for the final 10:16.
Odessa College took it's biggest lead at 73-52 on Kejuan Johnson's basket with 5:33 to go.
"We're a defensive-based team and we had a good week of practice defensively," Arnold said. "We still had some lapses and we've got to get better, but we're a team that scores off our defense. We get stops, get out and push in transition and try to make some easy baskets."
Haley said Monday's open date helped reenergize the Wranglers for the final stretch of the regular season.
"Practice this week went really well," he said. "I think Coach got everybody prepared for the rest of the season. Everybody knows it's going to be a lot harder to finish off because we started really well, but I think we're going to be good enough to do it."
Article by Sam Waller OA
Photo by Jacob Ford OA