Wrangler Men ride hot shooting to beat Midland 84-62

Tony Vengas:OA
Tony Vengas:OA

The Odessa College men's basketball team faced another double-digit deficit in the first half Monday of their WJCAC game against Midland College at the OC Sports Center.

This time, the Wranglers took care to erase it before the end of the half on the way to an 84-62 victory over the Chaparrals.

Jalen Hawkins scored 19 points, James Reese scored 17 and Anthony Johnson added 12 as Odessa College (20-5 overall, 9-2 WJCAC) reached the 20-win mark and stayed a half game back of conference leader South Plains College.

 "For the last two weeks, we've had better practices and I think it showed a little bit," Odessa College head coach Kris Baumann said. "We got off to a slow start again, but I thought we shot the ball really, really well, obviously. That always helps.

"We're getting to the back end of our schedule where we play more games at home. The kids enjoy playing at home and I thought the crowd was great. It was great, the kids were excited and we made a bunch of shots."

Odessa College enjoyed one of its best shooting nights of the season, finishing 32 of 53 from the field (60.4 percent) and 15 of 29 from 3-point range (51.7 percent). Hawkins finished 7 of 9 overall and 5 of 6 on 3-pointers. Johnson was 4 of 5, all from 3-point range.

"We got out early and moved the ball, pushed the ball running up the floor," Hawkins said. "We made the defense work harder and work more through the ball, and everybody knocked shots down."

Jordan Pierce added eight points with seven rebounds and four blocked shots as the Wranglers moved within 1 1/2 games of clinching a berth in the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament.

"Mostly, Coach tells us when we have the ball, it's meant for the guards to cut and score, so we're looking to pass, then we got to our go-to moves," Pierce said. "Since we were hitting a lot of 3s, it was opening it up and giving me chances to score."

Meanwhile, the Wranglers defense clamped down on Midland College, holding the Chaparrals to 38.1 percent from the field (24 of 63). Midland College actually shot better from 3-points range (7 of 18, 38.9 percent) than from inside the arc.

Midland College (8-17, 3-9) was led by Montre Gipson and Elijah Lufile with 17 points apiece.

The Chaparrals took an early 9-2 lead, then used an 11-2 run to go up 22-9 when D.J. Purnell, who finished with nine points, converted a three-point play with 10:47 to go in the first half. Odessa College responded with a 15-0 run, taking a 24-22 lead on Hawkins' 3-pointer with 7:01 remaining.

Odessa College took the lead for good at 31-28 on another Hawkins 3-pointer with 4:02 left in the half and led 38-33 at the break. The Wranglers nursed the lead through the opening four minutes of the second half before breaking the game open with another 15-0 run as Hawkins hit two more 3s.

"I've got a group of guys that have played really well in practice," Baumann said. "The last two games, they've kind of been the separator. They just kind of play well together. When I put them in the game, the ball moves and they trust one another and they play really good defense. They're playing really confident."

The Wranglers took their largest lead at 74-50 on Adrean Johnson's 3-pointer with 7:06 remaining and Midland College got no closer than 18 the rest of the way.

ARTICLE BY - SAM WALLER: ODESSA AMERICAN
PHOTO BY - TONY VENGAS: ODESSA AMERICAN