MIDLAND, Texas — Cloud County came close, but couldn’t quite overcome a double digit first half deficit to Odessa College.
Trailing by 13 points at halftime, the Thunderbirds closed the gap to single digits early in the second half, but could never get over the hump in a 75-69 loss to the Wranglers in the third-place game of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament Saturday afternoon.
After opening the tournament with a win over host Midland College, the T-Birds were beaten 67-59 by second-ranked Central Arizona in the semifinals on Friday, and then tumbled to Odessa.
“I always feel like it is a good experience for us because it is so unique,” Cloud County coach Brett Erkenbrack said of the playing in a tournament loaded with quality teams,” It has to be a positive for us. Had we been able to win on Saturday I would have felt it was a great trip. As it turned out I thought it was a good trip for us.”
There were five lead changes and four ties in the first half of the third-place game.
Odessa was able to surge to a 46-33 halftime advantage.
“I think Odessa played great. They are a good team. They shoot the ball well. They are hard to guard,” Erkenbrack said, “The first half we didn’t even get them slowed down. We did a little better job defensively in the second half, but we had some costly turnovers and some really costly missed opportunities on the offensive end.”
Cloud County (5-3) could get within three points early in the second half.
“We started the second half strong,” Erkenbrack said, “We had opportunities to win it, but we didn’t.”
Odessa, led by Angenay Williams, was able to fight off the Cloud County challenges down the stretch, and pick up the win.”Every time we looked like we were going to get it tied up or get within one, we would turn it over or miss a layup,” Erkenbrack said.
Williams hit 11 of 17 field goal attempts and four of five free throws in scoring 29 points for the Wranglers. She also had seven rebounds.
Sophomore Pearlrae Thomas led Cloud County with 17 points and nine rebounds. She was 7 of 13 from the floor and three of four from the line.
Raneisha Duncan and Jayna Smith scored 12 points each for Cloud County.
The T-Birds shot 52 percent (15 of 29) from the field in the second half, and finished 27 of 60 for 45 percent. They were 10 of 16 from the line for 63 percent.
Natalia Gavryliuk scored 14 points for Odessa.
Alissa Campanero and Chanell Lockhart chipped in 10 points each.
The Wranglers (6-3) hit 26 of 63 field goal attempts for 41 percent and 14 of 22 free throws for 64 percent.
Fourth-ranked Trinity Valley (Texas) College slipped past Central Arizona 66-63 in the championship game.
Midland College downed Northern Oklahoma College-Enid 79-65 in the fifth-place game and College of Southern Idaho knocked off Angelina (Texas) College 63-43 in the seventh-place game.
Cloud County will host its Thanksgiving Classic this weekend.
The T-Birds play Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa at 6 p.m. Saturday and Iowa Western Community College at 3 p.m. Sunday.