The Odessa College women's basketball team was aiming to end the regular season on a good note against the top team in the WJCAC.
The Lady Wranglers got off to a strong start and were in a tight battle throughout but were eventually able to pull away for a 58-46 victory over South Plains College Thursday night the OC Sports Center.
The victory gave Odessa College (20-7 overall, 10-4 in conference) its 20th on the year and also clinched the No. 3 seed in the Region V NJCAA tournament next week in Abilene after Midland College lost to New Mexico Junior College.
"It was a good basketball game with two good teams going up against each other," Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said. "I thought we competed hard, nice job defensively and rebounded better than what we have."
The Lady Wranglers started the opening quarter on a 12-2 run as the defense was able to fluster the Lady Texans early.
South Plains (27-3, 12-2) was able to get settled in late in the quarter; however, thanks in large part to the efforts of sophomore forward Sarah Shematsi.
Shematsi scored five of her game-high 17 points late in the quarter to get the Texans back into the game.
The second quarter proved to be a back-and-forth battle as the Lady Wranglers were able to keep the lead at six thanks in part to Kamryn Lemon, who led Odessa College with 15 points, six assists and three steals.
However, the Lady Texans came back strong with a 7-0 run to close the half thanks to two baskets from Shematsi and a 3-pointer from Gabbie Green with 15 seconds remaining to give South Plains a 26-25 lead at halftime.
The Lady Texans pushed the lead to 34-29 before the Lady Wranglers tied the game quickly thanks to a layup from Lemon and a 3-pointer from Yanina Todorova to tie the game 34.
Todorova would hit another 3-pointer to close out the frame and give Odessa College a 39-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The final 10 minutes was where the Lady Wranglers would eventually pull away.
Both teams exchanged the lead on three separate occasions to start the fourth quarter but after South Plains went up 42-41, the Lady Wranglers closed the final 5:47 on a 17-4 run.
Odessa College held South Plains to just nine points in the fourth quarter and got some timely shooting from Todorova, who finished with 13 points all of them coming in the second half.
The freshman also added six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
"They have so many different ways to score," Baten said of South Plains. "We just tried to stay aggressive and eliminate second chances."
"I thought we did really good work on defense," Todorova said. "We worked together as a team and we were able to create some chances off of that."
The Lady Wranglers now turn their attention to the regional tournament and after making a move up to a better seed, the hope is to build off of that momentum to a championship and a spot in the national tournament.
"I believe in this team and they believe in themselves," Baten said. "I think we can compete with anyone in the country."
ARTICLE & PHOTO BY- TONY VENGAS: ODESSA AMERICAN