Temple College coach Clifton Ellis said his team has not had a problem securing leads against its Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference opponents this season. The difficulty for the Leopards has been closing out those contests for victories.
On Saturday afternoon at TC Gym against Ranger, it appeared the Leopards were on their way to one of their most significant wins of the season before things unraveled. Despite leading 57-46 at halftime and 74-60 with 11½ minutes left in the game, Temple couldn’t overcome a second-half rally by the Rangers, who used a 13-0 run to make it 74-73 and a 13-7 run to lead 92-86 with 2:37 left.
Tyler Watkins made a layup that gave TC the lead at 95-94 with 20 seconds remaining, but Ranger’s Jorrell Saterfield made a 3-pointer with 7 seconds left to send the Leopards to a 97-95 loss and third straight conference defeat.
TC got off a final shot, but Elijah Lomas’ corner 3 at the buzzer was off the mark.
“This is a game of making shots. We had our chances down the stretch to make some free throws and layups, and we didn’t do it and (Ranger) did,” Ellis said. “This is the third conference game where we’ve had a double-digit lead in the second half and we just haven’t been able to close out those games. We’ve got to be better at coming up with big plays and making the right plays down the stretch.”
Brandon Monroe was 5-of-8 from 3-point range and scored 20 points for Temple. Aleu Aleu added 14 and Khouri Perkins chipped in 11. The Leopards shot 51 percent (31-for-61) for the game and 55 percent during a first half in which they made 10 of 21 attempts from beyond the arc before going 3-of-11 from deep after the break.
Keisei Tominaga went 7-for-14 from long range to lead Ranger with 26 points.
“I saw an open lane and I knew they were in the penalty, so I figured either I would make the layup or get to the free throw line,” Watkins said of his final basket. “This gives us a huge confidence boost because we’ve thrown some games away that we should have won. We know we can play with the best teams in this conference.”
After falling behind 23-14 with 13:16 left in the first half, Temple (5-5, 1-5) got two 3s from Monroe, a three-point play from Watkins, and layups by Maison Adeleye and Kristopher O’Neal to fuel a 21-4 run for a lead 35-27 with 8½ minutes left before halftime. The Leopards led 57-46 at intermission, but the Rangers (7-3, 5-2) forced eight Temple turnovers and made seven 3-pointers in the second half to claw back in it.