The stage was set for a battle between two teams near the top of the WJCAC standings and it was a tight battle from start to finish.
It took all 40 minutes to decide the winner, but in the end the Odessa College women's basketball team came up just short, falling 67-62 Monday night to New Mexico Junior College in WJCAC play at the OC Sports Center.
With the win, the Lady Thunderbirds clinch no worse than the No. 2 seed in the NJCAA Region V tournament, while the Lady Wranglers still maintain the No. 4 seed with one game left in the regular season.
"Give a lot of credit to New Mexico because they played well tonight and they're a really good basketball team," Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said. "That being said, I thought our kids competed hard tonight and I'm proud of how they played."
Odessa College (19-7 overall, 9-4 conference) did get big scoring nights from two sophomore guards. Kamryn Lemon finished with 20 points to go with five assists, and Amanda Soderqvist had 15 points and six rebounds.
Still, it wasn't enough to overcome the length of the Lady Thunderbirds lineup.
Soderqvist got the night off to a good start for the Lady Wranglers, knocking down two 3-pointers within the first three minutes to set the pace.
However, Thamires Andrade gave New Mexico Junior College (23-4, 11-2) the boost it was looking for early, scoring the first two baskets for the Lady Thunderbirds as part of her game-high 23 points.
Odessa College built up a 16-9 lead late in the first quarter before NMJC answered with a 7-0 run of its own to tie the game up.
The Lady Wranglers finished the quarter with an 18-16 lead after a layup from Yanina Todorova with less than 10 seconds remaining.
The second quarter proved to be a back-and-forth battle as the Lady Thunderbirds took the lead for the first time early in the frame.
But matching 8-0 runs from Odessa College and New Mexico JC kept the game even. The Lady Thunderbirds held a 28-26 before a layup by Geovana Lopes tied the game heading into the locker room.
Even as Odessa College got off to a quick 5-0 run in the second half, NMJC had an answer.
The Lady Thunderbirds had two separated runs of 9-0 and 10-1 in the third quarter to build a 47-40 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
The fourth quarter proved to be a battle of who could control the post and that was won by NMJC, which got big nights from forwards Sydnee Winn and Eternati Willock.
Both players recorded double-doubles. Winn finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Willock had 10 and 10.
Still, the Lady Wranglers fought back, getting three 3-pointers from Soderqvist, including one that made it 63-61 with 58 seconds remaining.
After Willock made two free throws, Odessa College still had one final chance to send the game to overtime with 16.9 seconds remaining.
However, the potential game-tying 3-pointer came up short and New Mexico Junior College salted the game away at the line with two more free throws from Andrade.
It was a tough way to lose for the Lady Wranglers and Baten took it upon himself to take responsibility for the loss.
"Sometimes, it's on the kids and sometimes it's on the coach and the coach didn't do a good job tonight," Baten said. I have to be better because our kids deserve better. I didn't make enough adjustments offensively to put us in a good position and that's my fault."
ARTICLE BY- TONY VENGAS: ODESSA AMERICAN
PHOTO BY- PETER DINDINGER: ODESSA AMERICAN