JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN Tavern Robinson drives toward the hoop Thursday during the Thunderbirds' 78-76 win over Western Texas College at Caster Activity Center.
Antonio Morales made sure the New Mexico Junior College men's basketball team didn't send its fans home broken-hearted Thursday night after the Thunderbirds blew a 16-point lead.
With 2.3 seconds left in the game, Morales hit a jump shot to give NMJC a 78-76 lead, one the T-Birds would hang on to as it beat the Westerners at Caster Activity Center.
The T-Birds led 46-32 at the break and pushed their lead to 16 points early in the second half. But Western Texas went on a 16-3 run late in the second half, erasing NMJC's lead and putting the T-Birds in a 73-72 defecit with 2:51 to play.
New Mexico Junior College retook the lead on a layup from DeAnthony Owens, but Western Texas tied the game at 74-74 with 2:04 left on the clock. That is how the score remained until Owens hit a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left, giving NMJC a 76-74 lead. Western Texas knotted the game back up at 76-all on a pair of free throws with 11.1 seconds left in the game before Morales sank the game-winner with 2.3 seconds left on an assist from Owens.
New Mexico Junior College had five players score in double figures.
Marcell Haskett led NMJC with 17 points. Florian Ouedraogo and Franklyn Penn Jr. each had 12 points while Damontrez Hawes chipped in 11. Owens finished with 10 and Morales contributed eight points for the T-Birds.
Penn Jr. led NMJC and tied Western Texas' Zac Saddler with a game-high eight rebounds while Tavion Robinson had seven for the T-Birds. Haskett had almost as many assists by himself (six) as Western Texas had as a team (seven). Overall, the T-Birds dished out 17 assists.
Western Texas' Miles Mcdougall had a game-high 31 points,17 of which came in the second half.
With the win, NMJC improves to 13-4 on the season and 2-1 in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play. The T-Birds will be back in action Monday when they host South Plains College.