The Odessa College women's basketball team overcame a 19-point deficit Saturday to rally past New Mexico Junior College for a 69-65 victory in the final of the NJCAA Region V Championships at Moody Coliseum.
Kamryn Lemon, who scored a game-high 26 points, hit four free throws in the final 21 seconds to seal the outcome, which sends Odessa College (23-7) back to the NJCAA national tournament.
Julan McDonald had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Lady Wranglers.
New Mexico Junior College (26-5) led 50-31 with 4:06 left in the third quarter, but the Lady Wranglers outscored the Lady Thunderbirds 38-15 the rest of the way.
Odessa College managed to complete the comeback despite shooting just 36.7 percent from the field (22 of 60), while New Mexico Junior College hit 50 percent (27 of 54). The difference came at the free-throw line, where the Lady Wranglers made 18 of 25 while the Lady Thunderbirds went 8 of 14. Odessa College also hit seven 3-pointers to three for NMJC.
"The kids played great," Odessa College coach Ara Baten said. "They were frustrated early. The shooting was a little off and I think that led to some frustration and maybe some lack of execution based off that. But they kept fighting, kept plugging and kept working.
"I thought we found something in the post with Julan that kind of sparked us, then Kam (Lemon) got going and Okako (Adika) came in and played some huge minutes late in the game. The kids were just phenomenal."
Thamires Andrade scored 16 points to lead New Mexico Junior College, while Sydnee Wynn had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Odessa College cut the deficit to 10 points by the end of the third quarter. McDonald had eight points in less than two minutes to help spark the comeback.
McDonald said the talk the players received from the coaching staff at halftime, when the Lady Wranglers trailed 36-22, sowed the seeds for the turnaround.
"They put it into focus how hard we've worked and nobody deserved it more than us," McDonald said. "I think that locked into everyone's minds and they really played their hearts out tonight."
Lemon had 10 points at halftime, but stepped up her production in the second half.
"It was really just playing my game," said Lemon, who also had a game-high five assists. "I know everyone's always going to try to shut me down, but they don't realize we've got other good players on our team that can score and make big plays. That's what they did tonight.
"When people are just guarding me, that opens up the lane. That's what (McDonald) did. They were all out on me and it was opening up for her."
The Lady Wranglers tied it at 53 on Lemon's basket with 7:06 left in the game and took their first lead at 56-55 on Okako Adika's 3-pointer with 5:38 to go, but New Mexico Junior College scored the next five points to go back in front. The Lady Thunderbirds took a 60-56 lead when Eternati Willock, who scored 12 points off the bench, converted a three-point play with 4:24 remaining.
After again pulling even, Odessa College took the lead for good at 63-60 on Yanina Todorova's 3-pointer with 1:59 to go. Todorova and Adika each scored eight points for the Lady Wranglers, while Maria Guimaraes added six points.
ARTICLE BY- SAM WALLER: ODESSA AMERICAN