Leopards basketball

Temple College’s Jordan Okonji shoots a layup in traffic Saturday during the Leopards’ conference-opening win over Ranger at TC Gym.

Quenton Coleman scored 18 of his game-high 28 points in the second half, including eight of his team’s final 10, as Temple College erased an early 12-point deficit to post a 77-74 win over Ranger College in the Leopards’ North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference opener Saturday at TC Gym.

Coleman buried six 3-pointers, four of which came in the final 20 minutes, to help Temple (12-4, 1-0) to its fourth straight win. Freshman Jaedaun Slack added 25 points for the Leopards, 16 of which came in the second half.

“It’s just really good that we were able to protect our home court,” said Coleman, who made two free throws with 6.6 seconds left to provide Temple with a three-point lead.

Following the freebies, Ranger (9-6, 0-2) quickly advanced the ball down court and appeared to tie the game with 2.7 seconds left when Jared Clawson drained a 3 from the top of the key, but a referee waived off the shot, saying Ranger head coach Larry Brown had called a timeout before Clawson’s shot.

After the timeout, the Rangers’ Jaylen Thompson had trouble finding a teammate on the inbounds play and just before a 5-second count was called, his pass sailed over a teammate’s head and out of bounds at the baseline, allowing Temple to dribble out the clock to seal the win.

“We just had to move the ball more,” Coleman said of his team’s second-half success. “On offense, we were sticking too much. The ball was sticking. We needed to find the open guy. The go-to guy is the open guy is what Coach always says, so that’s what we had to do.”

The Leopards trailed most of the game, taking their first lead at 72-71 with 2:07 remaining when Slack followed up his transition miss with a layup from the right side.

Temple didn’t fall behind again.

Two possessions prior, Coleman drained a deep 3 from about 2 feet behind the line off a feed from Justin Thomas — bringing the Leopards to within one for the first time — as Coleman and Slack combined to score Temple’s final 12 points.

“Usually you have to tell guys to kind of calm down,” Temple head coach Clifton Ellis said. “This time, we had to tell them to pep up a little bit, almost kind of like get a little more spirit about you.”

Ellis said one key was simply telling his players to keep shooting.

“I think they were a little frustrated with themselves in the first half,” he said. “They had some good looks and missed some shots, but we’re going to keep shooting. We have some guys that can put the ball in the basket and we’re going to tell them to keep shooting. That game could’ve gone either way. I’m just happy that our guys made a few more plays, a few more shots.”

Sophomore post Kobe Samake led Ranger with 17 points, while Eli Taylor and Tayton Conerway netted 14 apiece.

Brown said it came down to clutch plays at the end.

“We came out good, but they stayed around and made some shots (at the end),” the Ranger coach said. “Temple College is a good program. They’re always a good test for our team.”