Tanaka Gapare said it's something she and the Lady Wranglers have been chewing on for the past month, and even longer.
And that's what made Thursday's win even sweeter.
"It's time to put it into gear and start playing like we're supposed to," she said.
The Odessa College women's basketball team did just that Thursday night, downing rival Midland College 49-43 for a big rivalry win in the OC Sports Center — putting past troubles in the rear view, and lifting the Lady Wranglers to a first conference win that they've waited since November to earn.
Gapare led Odessa College with a double-double, scoring a team-best 14 points and hauling in 10 rebounds.
Odessa College jumped out to an early lead, held firm to a five-point advantage at the halftime break, then put together a deciding 10-0 run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to seal the win, and catapult the Lady Wranglers back into league play with a bang in early January.
The 17th-ranked Lady Wranglers moved to 1-1 in the WJCAC, helping to rectify a late November loss to open conference play, which the team had been stewing over ever since.
"We're still growing. We're still getting better. So I'm proud of our kids," Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said after Thursday's victory.
Odessa College led 19-14 at the break after a low-scoring first two frames, and traded runs early in the third, until the teams sat with the same five-point margin at 31-26 with less than two minutes left in the third quarter.
But that's when the Lady Wranglers made their move, pushing out to a 35-26 lead by the end of the third, then opening the fourth with a 6-0 run to put Odessa College up 15 at 41-26 with just more than 8:30 left.
Sydni Tears' spinning baseline jumpshot opened the fourth quarter's scoring, before Amanda Soderqvist poked away a steal on the ensuing possession and finished at the other end of the floor and then, after another defensive stop, Chinna Fair scored inside to put Odessa College up 15.
"I think that's probably the difference in the game," Baten said of that run.
"We had a couple of runs. We had a run in the first part of the game, and we had a run in the third, fourth quarter, and that was the difference. That kind of got us out to a point where we could overcome a couple of mistakes late."
Midland College chipped away from there, but never truly threatened. The Lady Chaparrals knocked down a 3-pointer to make it a six-point game with less than five minutes to go, but Odessa College answered back to stretch the lead to 10 again with three minutes left.
"It was a tough, hard game that we played, but I think it was probably one of the best games we've played so far," Gapare said. "Everyone came together as a team."
Behind Gapare, Fair and Shannon Dozier each added seven points, while Danyael Goodhope chipped in another six. The Lady Wranglers knocked down 37.1 percent of their shots from the floor, while limiting Midland College to 32.7-percent efficiency.
"It feels pretty good, especially against a rival," Fair said. "They're a pretty good team. It just feels really good winning against them. Every time we win against them, it's great.
"We just came out strong and played together as a team."
The Lady Wranglers mustered a three-point win over Midland College back in November in nonconference action in Midland.
That was before the Lady Wranglers opened conference play with a 75-65 loss to Frank Phillips College on Nov. 29 — something they had in mind all through a long December break, and through splitting two nonconference games to start January last week.
"I think with the amount of losses we've taken, we're at that point where we're like, 'We're not going to take any more,'" Gapare said.
"I think the break gave us a little bit of time to reevaluate, readjust, and come back with a different mindset," she added.
Odessa College continues conference play on the road Monday at Western Texas College.
"It's still a work in progress," Baten said. "The kids are working hard. They're trying to do the right things. They're competing really hard. Those are the things that, when we get into February and March and we clean up some of the basketball things, those things matter.
"I think, since we got back from Christmas, we've been doing those things better. So I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the way they competed.
Article by Justin Lee OA
Photo by Jacob Ford OA