Odessa College was overmatched against the nation's top-ranked team.
In a second-round game at the NJCAA Women's Basketball Championship, the Lady Wranglers had a tough hill to climb against undefeated No. 1 Shelton State (Ala.).
The Lady Buccaneers made the task of taking them down look impossible at times en route to a comfortable 81-57 victory against Odessa College at Lubbock Christian University's Rip Griffin Center.
Shelton State's Cierra Johnson, who has committed to play at Alabama, led all scorers with 20 points.
It is the second consecutive season that Shelton State has eliminated the Lady Wranglers.
Shelton State will meet another Western Junior College Athletic Conference team, New Mexico Junior College, which defeated ASA College (N.Y.) in overtime.
"I thought Shelton State played really, really well … I thought they came out very prepared, ran their stuff really well," Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said. "They were very disruptive in what they did offensively, and I didn't adjust well enough to it to give us an opportunity to find that rhythm."
Odessa College (23-11) never led in the game, hitting its first shot more than three minutes into the game on a Leticia Soares jumper from near the baseline.
The Lady Wranglers couldn't build on that momentum for the rest of the quarter, finishing the first 10 minutes being outscored by 14 points.
After staying almost even with Shelton State (34-0) in the second quarter, Odessa College was still within striking distance of the Lady Buccaneers coming out of halftime, trailing by 15 points (39-24).
In the third quarter, Shelton State ramped up its energy to extend its lead to 20 points. The Lady Buccaneers quickly pushed the lead to 25 and led by 33 points after 30 minutes.
"I thought we looked like a team that could compete for a national championship for about three quarters … we looked hungry, we looked like every possession mattered," Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said. "We knew their sets, we knew what they were going to run and it looked like we communicated and talked defensively."
The Lady Buccaneers shot nearly 53 percent from the field (27-of-51) in the game's first three quarters, before they allowed Odessa College to cut into their lead in the fourth quarter.
Eight sophomores suited up for the final time in a Lady Wranglers uniform in the loss.
"I love OC," Fair said. "If I could put on that jersey again next year I would. I love playing for Coach B, he's a great coach, he's like a father to me."
Fair added after the game that she didn't adjust well to Shelton State's attempts to limit her production on the floor. Baten quickly said that even more so, he didn't put her in enough good spots to help the team.
Baten added that he incredibly proud of what his team accomplished this season.
The Lady Wranglers overcame a few early losses in WJCAC play to qualify for the regional tournament and make it to the national stage by winning the Region V Tournament title.
"I think that outside of our locker room, I think probably most people gave up on us in January," Baten said. "But inside our locker room — our coaches, our assistant coaches, our players, our trainers, everybody in that locker room — I don't think one person in that locker room did not believe that we would be here competing for a national championship when it was all said and done."
Odessa College returns four freshmen from this year's team next season, including Julan McDonald, who came off the bench to score eight points against Shelton State.
Article by Eric Blum OA
Photo by Mark Rogers OA