Playing their seventh game in the last 12 days, Temple College coach Amber Taylor knew that fatigue caused by the grueling grind of the Lady Leopards’ adjusted schedule might eventually catch up with her players.
After last month’s winter storm affected more than a week’s worth of Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference contests, TC was left with a number of games to complete and a short amount of time to do so.
The first quarter of Wednesday’s conference tilt included some of the Lady Leopards’ mental and physical exhaustion, as they managed just a one-point lead and even trailed in the opening minutes against last-place Cisco. However, it didn’t take Temple College long to steady itself.
The Lady Leopards dominated the middle two quarters and led by 32 entering the fourth in a 97-65 rout of the Lady Wranglers at TC Gym for their sixth win in their last eight games.
“I thought we were playing slow and kind of lethargic to start, and I think (our schedule) kind of hit us,” said Taylor, who faced her former team for the second time Wednesday after TC defeated Cisco 75-60 earlier this season. “Once we figured it out and knew what we were doing wrong, we started to play like us.”
Temple College (13-4, 9-4) outscored Cisco 25-7 in the second quarter on the strength of a 15-6 run over the first 6½ minutes and followed that with an 11-1 burst that put the Lady Leopards in the driver’s seat, 50-31 at halftime. TC scored another 25 points in the third and held Cisco (4-13, 0-12) to 11 points for a 74-42 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
Jordyn Carter scored a game-high and season-high 29 points on 14-of-18 shooting, including a perfect 6-for-6 mark in the second half. Starr Jacobs, who entered Wednesday averaging a team-leading 22 points per game, was held to 10 points. Her teammates helped pick up the slack as Kamani Jones (14) and Jordan Walker (13) had double-digit scoring totals, and 11 Lady Leopards finished in the point column.
“When my teammates are getting steals and find me for long passes, I love it. I know that if I can get into the open court, I can usually get a layup,” said Carter, whose team forced 20 turnovers and shot 47 percent (40-for-85) for the game, including a 55 percent (33-for-60) mark through the first three quarters.
The victory kept Temple College at fourth place in the conference and in the playoff hunt along with Hill (11-2 conference), Ranger (9-3) and Grayson (9-3).
TC has three regular-season games left — Collin (5-7), Grayson and Weatherford (8-5) — and the Lady Leopards have wins against two of the three this year. Taylor said at this point in the season and with a battle to make the NJCAA Region V tournament, there isn’t a lot to tell her players that they don’t already know.
“I don’t have to say much right now. They know,” Taylor said. “They know what it takes to win in this league and they know what they have to do to finish. There are so many teams that are jumbled up in second, third, fourth and fifth place. We have three big games left.”
The Lady Wranglers made eight of 14 shot attempts in the first quarter, but were held to 1-for-15 shooting in the second quarter and 4-for-21 in the third. Temple College gave up 31 percent shooting in the teams’ earlier meeting and 32 percent (22-for-68) on Wednesday.
Tonijah Fortune led Cisco with 28 points and Latifa Amzil added 12.
TC led 25-24 after the first quarter and widened the lead to 40-30 with less than 3 minutes before halftime. Jones made a shot in the post, Taylor Phouangaphayvong converted a pair of fast-break layups off two steals and Marlaina Spearman hit a 3-pointer over the final 2½ minutes of the first half to give the Lady Leopards a 19-point lead at intermission. Carter — who scored 11 points in the first quarter, including a buzzer-beating 3 off the glass to end the period — added 10 points in the third, as TC shot 12-for-17 in the frame. Consecutive steals and layups by Carter made it 58-33 with 6:45 left, as TC’s lead swelled to 32 to begin the fourth and 90-52 following a 3 by Kirsten Zaruba with 5½ minutes remaining in the game.
“We’re pretty confident right now,” Carter said. “With the streak that we’re on and how we’re feeling, we feel like we’re about to go into our last three games pretty strong.”