LUBBOCK – Leticia Soares and Chinna Fair each scored a team-high 18 points, and No. 17 seed Odessa College continued its impressive postseason run by opening the NJCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament with an 85-79 victory over No. 16 seed Harford Community College on Monday at the Rip Griffin Center.
Tanaka Gaspare chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Lady Wranglers (23-10), who will advance to face the No. 1-seeded Shelton State Lady Buccaneers on Tuesday at 2 p.m. Using a mix of dominating inside play and hot first-half shooting, Odessa College raced out to a huge lead in the first half then held off a furious Harford rally to hold on to the win.
“That’s really a testament to our team and our kids,” Odessa College head coach Ara Baten said. “Some of them have been here before and the spot was not too big for them. They understand good teams are going to make a run, so there was no panic, no panic in the huddle, no panic in the timeout. We knew what we had to do.”
The Lady Wranglers dominated in the paint, outrebounding Harford 51-32, including an 18-7 edge in offensive rebounds that led to 22 second-chance points for Odessa. The Lady Wranglers also shot 52.8 percent from the field in the first half in lead
Odessa led 70-56 to start the final period, but the Fighting Owls came storming back thanks to a couple of key 3-pointers from Adrienne Jones and the work inside by Joy Morton and Tianna Swearinger. The two combined to hit some inside shot and also convert at the free throw line, the result being a 13-3 run that pulled Harford to within one twice in the final 21/2 minutes.
But the Fighting Owls couldn’t overcome the deficit completely as Odessa closed the game on a 7-3 run.
“We went up against a pretty good team in Odessa. They’re hot coming in and we figured they would shoot the ball well,” Harford head coach Mike Seney said. “I wish we’d done a better job inside but Odessa is a good team and we have nothing to hang our heads for. We fought hard in the game to get back into it in the fourth, just had two big a hole for us early on.”
Amanda Soderqvist added 10 points for the Lady Wranglers, who had all five scorers in double figures.
Swearinger led Harford with a game-high 25 points. Morton added 18 and Ryan Holder chipped in 13 for the Fighting Owls, whose season ends at 27-3.
Harford came out of the gates strong and took an early lead, but Odessa quickly took control after that, going on a 12-0 run to grab a 17-5 lead three minutes into the game. Two free throws by Soares pushed that lead to 27-14 with just under a minute to play in the opening period.
Odessa kept up its face-paced barrage in the second quarter, forcing Harford to play the Lady Wranglers’ style and never letting the Fighting Owls back into it. Harford did close to within 10 at 43-33 after Holder converted two free throws with 2:44 to play in the half to cap a 7-0 run.
But Odessa closed the half strong, using its defense to create offense as the Lady Wranglers answered with their own 7-9 run and led 50-36 at the intermission.
Dozier led the Lady Wranglers in the first half with 11 points and Gaspare added 10.
Swearinger and Morton each had 10 points in the first half for the Fighting Owls.