The Lady Wranglers saw it slip away.
An early lead started to dwindle. A once-sturdy defense started to crumble. Shots fell off the rim, loose balls bounced by outreached hands, and opportunities passed their way by.
Seemingly helpless, the Lady Wranglers had to watch it all fall apart.
Odessa College just didn't have the answers Saturday.
The 10th-ranked Odessa College women's basketball team led at the half but stumbled down the stretch as No. 2 Trinity Valley Community College took over for a comeback 62-51 victory on Saturday in the Chaparral Center in Midland.
Odessa College led 31-22 at the break, but Trinity Valley charged back to take control of the game with a 22-7 third quarter and pass a stumbling Lady Wranglers team which hit just two of its 11 shots in that third quarter, while allowing 15 second-chance points and 14 points off turnovers in the second half on the way to the loss.
"Inconsistency," Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said, summing it up in a word.
Odessa College played like one of the nation's elite at times Saturday, coming away with takeaways, making stops and converting on the offensive end — especially early, as the Lady Wranglers jumped out to a 12-2 lead, held a 17-10 advantage in by the end of the first quarter, and outscored Trinity Valley 14-12 in the second to build that halftime lead.
But Trinity Valley powered back, and when it did, Odessa College was left empty.
Trinity Valley started the third quarter with a 14-3 run to take its first lead of the game at 36-34, then after a short Odessa College response, the second-ranked Lady Cards closed the third with an 8-0 run to take a 44-38 lead into the final frame.
Saturday's meeting closed the weekend for both teams at Midland College's WNIT, which brought together four teams ranked nationally in the NJCAA's first rankings of the season.
Odessa College suffered its first loss of the season to No. 5 Salt Lake Community College in Midland on Thursday. The Lady Wranglers bounced back to beat No. 21 Midland College on Friday.
It was in this tournament last season that Odessa College picked up three big wins in the early going to make a splash, on the Lady Wranglers' way to winning a WJCAC regular-season championship, winning the Region V tournament championship and making it to the national tournament's quarterfinals.
This year, the Lady Wranglers left Midland with a pair of losses and plenty of questions.
"We've just got a long way to go," Baten said. "We've got to get better.
"We've got talented people. We're still trying to figure out how to be a good team. We've got to make some progress."
That talent was on display in the first 20 minutes.
Tanaka Gapare cut in along the baseline and scored on an assist from Danyael Goodhope as time expired in the first half to give Odessa College its nine-point lead going into the break, but things started to fall apart for the Lady Wranglers when they returned to the floor.
Trinity Valley traded three field goals with a free throw early in the third to cut the deficit to four, before Gapare responded with an inside score to make it 34-28.
From that point, Trinity Valley's Rodrea Echols knocked down a shot, Tyasia Moore netted the next basket, and then, after a Lady Wranglers' turnover, Tra'dayjia Smith hit two free throws to make it a 34-34 game and officially erase Odessa College's lead.
When Trinity Valley took the lead in the next moments, Odessa College showed some life, with Kassie Ybarra knocking down a free throw, then Gapare converting a three-point play to put the Lady Wranglers ahead again at 38-36 with 2:30 left in the third — their last gasp as it turned out.
Trinity Valley closed the third with eight straight points, and never looked back in the fourth.
Gapare's game-high 18 wasn't enough for Odessa College, after the team's second-half implosion.
"I thought we gave up some second, third shots in the second half. That hurt us. We didn't give up as many of those in the first half," Baten said. "We need to have a sustained effort in rebounding. Our transition defense could've been a little better. I thought we let them get loose in transition a few times.
"It's just getting more consistency."
To Baten's point, Odessa College allowed just two second-chance points in the first half, but gave up 15 in the second half.
Trinity Valley pulled down just five offensive rebounds in the first half, but hauled in 16 in the second half.
The Lady Wranglers gave up just four points off turnovers in the first half, but gave away 14 points off turnovers in the second half.
Problems compounded, as the Lady Wranglers stumbled.
"We've got to get a little tougher, we've got to get a little stronger mentally, we've got to play through bad minutes a little bit better, we've got to pick each other up a little bit better," Baten said. "We've just got to improve. We're just not there yet."
The Lady Wranglers will look to take steps forward when they return to the floor Monday at San Antonio College. Odessa College's next home game is set for Nov. 24 against Eastern Arizona College.
Article by Justin Lee OA
Photo by the OA