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Midland, TX (westernkansasnews.com)-Before the season ever starter, Nick Salazar told the masses to expect a roller coaster ride.
“With this team you will get the highest of the highs and the lowest of the lows,” he said. “It changes from one night to the next.”
He forgot to mention a little bit of the in between.
That’s exactly what happened on Friday afternoon.
Anna Djedjemel drained four 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 17 points as No. 23 Odessa turned a seven-point second-quarter deficit into a 65-57 victory in the consolation semifinals of the 2015 Women’s National Invitational Tournament at the Chaparral Center.
“It’s disappointing because I feel we are better than at least five of the teams in this field,” Salazar said. “But we are young, and right now you’re getting the mixed bag.”
Salazar’s team dug themselves an early hole again, falling down 8-2 in the first after misfiring on their first seven shots from the field.
“We’ve done that all season long,” Salazar said in reference to his team’s slow starts. “We’ve been a second-half team.”
On Friday, his team was a second-quarter team; well at least for part of it.
After trailing by seven late in the first, Garden City stormed back, scoring six straight points to begin the second, cutting the deficit to one. Moments later, Shala Dobbins, who finished just 2-of-11 from the floor, hit a driving layup, and Garden City (4-4) had their first lead 22-21 with 4:43 remaining in the first half.
“We showed again, that in stretches, we’re pretty hard to stop,” Salazar said.
The run continued, and when Kavita Akula hit a baseline jumper with 3:10 to go in the period, the Broncbusters had scored 10 straight to take a 28-21 lead.
“He (Odessa Coach Ara Baten) changed things up after a timeout,” Salazar said. “He went to a zone. And while I don’t think it really hurt us, our offense wasn’t the same after that.”
Garden City was held scoreless the rest of the second quarter while Odessa (7-2) scored the final nine points to take a 30-28 lead into the break.
“What did hurt us was on their offensive end,” Salazar said. “They went 1-4 flat. It was a look that we weren’t really read for. They did a really good job executing it.
The dry spell continued for Garden City in the second half, and Djedjemel’s 3-pointer with 6:50 to go in the game put the Wranglers up 55-40.
The Broncbusters made their move after that, cutting the lead to five following Kavita Akula’s triple from the left wing. But Odessa responded with their own 5-0 run to push the lead back to 10.
Not even Jenna Classen’s four-point play with 19 seconds remaining was enough to swing the tide, as Djedjemel put the game on ice with two free throws in the final 10 seconds.
The most frustrating aspect for Salazar was his star Dobbins, who looked out of sorts from the start.
“Shala Dobbins did not look like the Shala Dobbins from yesterday,” he said. “We have to get down to the reason why.”
Dobbins scored a season-high 34 points, connecting on 22-of-25 from the line in an opening-round loss to second-ranked Trinity Valley. On Friday, Dobbins shot just two free throws.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to be consistent,” Salazar said.
Despite a third straight loss, DaRae Lewis enjoyed her best game of the year, scoring a season-best 18 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Dominique Maxwell chipped in nine and Akula had eight.
Shelby Richards tallied 15 points for the Wranglers, who beat the Broncbusters for the fourth straight time. Lorena Hubbard notched her second double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 boards.