New Mexico Junior College center Sydnee Wynn blocks Howard College's Daria Vatrushkina's attempt in the paint. The Lady T-Birds defeated Howard College in the their first conference game of the season.
The New Mexico Junior College women's basketball team opened Western Junior College Athletic Conference play with a big win Wednesday as the Lady Thunderbirds crushed visiting Howard College in Caster Activity Center. The Lady T-Birds entered the game on a six game winning streak and pushed to seven straight after beating the Lady Hawks 70-33 behind a strong defensive performance.
Really, it was a tale of two halves for the Lady T-Birds. Head coach Drew Sanders was pleased with the first half, but was not near as happy following the Lady T-Birds' second half performance.
"It's a conference game, it's a win," said Sanders. "People look at the score and think it's a blowout. I look at it and say we played a very good first half and then coasted which I'm pretty upset about."
The first half of the game showed how good the defense of the Lady T-Birds is at forcing turnovers, blocking shots, and switching. The Lady T-Birds' defense held Howard College to 14.8 percent from the field in the opening half. At the end of the half they finished with six blocks, six steals, and forced 11 turnovers. As good as the defense was for the first half, the Lady T-Birds offense struggled in the first quarter before coming to life in the second.
The Lady T-Birds scored 18 points in the first quarter. They attacked the paint on plenty of occasions, but saw their attempts go short, long, or the Lady T-Birds' shooters just did not get the roll. The first quarter was a sloppy performance on the offensive end, but the defense held Howard College scoreless until the 4:55 mark. At the end of the first quarter Lady T-Birds led 18-6.
The second quarter saw the Lady T-Birds offense pick up and get plenty of easy buckets off turnovers. They had a 22-point quarter and it was created from their stingy defense. NMJC used a combination of full court press and half court trap, which led to most of the 11 turnovers in the half. The Lady T-Birds were able to score on the Howard College turnovers. Much of the damage on the offensive end came from Thamires Andrade and Amaya Lewis. Andrade's defense led to many of the steals for the Lady T-Birds. Lewis came off the bench to give the Lady T-Birds an offensive injection scoring 11 points in the first half. Howard College was held to five points in the quarter, the first coming with 26 seconds left on the clock. Howard College's Quanasia McDaniel hit a half court trey to end the half. The Lady T-Birds went into the break with a 40-11 lead.
In the second half of the game, the Lady T-Birds' defense continued to be its strength against Howard College while the offense continued to have up and down moments. The Lady T-Birds continued to force the Lady Hawks to try and score deep in the shot clock.
During the third quarter, the Lady T-Birds held Howard College to only seven points. The Lady T-Birds' defense forced Howard College into seven shot clock violations in the third quarter. At the same time, NMJC's offense had its lowest scoring quarter with just 11 points. The Lady T-Birds' half court offense continued to struggle, but was still efficient on transition. Heading into the final 10 minutes, the Lady T-Birds led 51-18.
With a 33-point lead going into the final quarter, the Lady T-Birds had a lapse of intensity on both offense and defense. This led to Howard College to its best quarter scoring 15 points. The Lady T-Birds scored 19 points off steals while Howard College continued to be forced into scoring deep in the shot clock.
The Lady T-Birds defense held Howard College to 22.2 percent from the field and 12.5 percent from the three-point line. They forced 20 turnovers, nine steals, and nine blocks at the end of the game. Lewis and Laci Hawthorne, who also came off the bench, led the Lady T-Birds with 15 points and seven boards apiece. Syd-nee Wynn had 12 points, two blocks, and six boards while Andrade finished with 10 points, four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. Eternity Willock was a pair of missed free throws away from scoring in double figures while also grabbing five boards.
Sanders called his team's performance on the offensive end horrible and sloppy.
"The execution on offense was really, really poor," the Lady T-Birds' coach said. "I was really, really disappointed by that."
Sanders didn't put all the blame on his team though. The coach acknowledged Howard College's defense disturbed his offensive schemes. He believes the game could have been closer if not for his team scoring on the transition.
With the win, NMJC improves to 8-1 on the season and 1-0 in WJCAC play. Next up for the Lady T-Birds is another road trip, this time to Oklahoma where they will play Northern Oklahoma College-Enid on Saturday and then play at Northern Oklahoma College-Tonkawa on Sunday.