Danielle Craft takes a shot for the Lady T-Birds Thursday during NMJC's loss to Odessa College. Craft missed on the shot and NMJC fell 66-57 to the Lady Wranglers.
JASON FARMER NEWS-SUN
ODESSA – What a difference one year can make.
Last year, the New Mexico Junior College women's basketball team went into its game at Odessa with the Lady Wranglers flaunting an unbeaten record and ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation, only for the Lady T-Birds to beat them. This year, the location was the same, and it was the Lady Wranglers sending the Lady T-Birds home with their first loss of the season.
New Mexico Junior College fell 66-57, ending the Lady Thunderbirds' 21-game winning streak, the second longest in school history.
"It is clearly a case of which team wanted it the most and which team was the most prepared," NMJC coach Drew Sanders said. "Our team wasn't prepared and didn't compete. I knew before the game that we were going to struggle. … It was a game that Odessa wanted and our kids didn't."
During the first half, the Lady T-Birds looked nothing like the No. 2 team in the nation. NMJC couldn't rebound and couldn't stop Odessa's 3-point shooting. The Lady Wranglers outrebounded NMJC 31-16 in the first half and hit nine of their 16 treys.
"When you are not ready to play – rebounding is energy," Sanders said. "There is no nice way to put this, they wanted it more and they played with the energy and we had none. We got our fannies kicked and deserved it."
As bad as the Lady T-Birds' defense was, their offense was nowhere to be seen. The Lady T-Birds had only two turnovers in the opening half, but managed just 10 points in the first quarter. Odessa used a 10-0 run to take an 18-10 lead after the first quarter. In the second quarter, NMJC scored 17, but gave up 27 to Odessa, going into the break trailing 45-27.
Things didn't get any better in the second half. While NMJC managed to outscore Odessa College 30-21 during the final two quarters of play, the damage was already done. NMJC trailed by as many as 22 with 8:36 left in the third. The Lady T-Birds didn't get their deficit into single digits until the final 30 seconds of the game.
"We played better, but we still didn't get stops," Sander said. "We were never coherent. The effort the second half was better, but the team cohesiveness and all that wasn't there."
With the loss, NMJC falls to 21-1 on the season and 5-1 in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play while Odessa improves to 13-7 overall and 2-4. Because of NMJC's win over Frank Phillips last week, the Lady T-Birds still sit atop the WJCAC standings. The Lady T-Birds will be back on the road Monday when they travel to Midland to face the Chaparrals. Tipoff is at 4:45 p.m.