WACO, Texas It was a battle between two NJCAA Division I basketball powerhouses at The Highlands tonight on the McLennan campus as the Highlanders opened conference play hosting the No. 4 Ranger Rangers. It was apparent from the start that the two teams were evenly matched, and Ranger slipped away with the narrow 69-60 victory.
Both teams started slow on their respective offensive ends of the court. Ranger opened on a 4-0 run but the Highlanders responded with a 4-0 run of their own to tie the game with 15:30 to go in the first half. Ranger took the lead less than 5 seconds later and the two teams kept it close. The Rangers would lead by as many as four down the stretch but the Highlanders would rally to tie or pull ahead. McLennan led by three, 24-21, with 5:36 to go in the half. Ranger used a 7-0 run to take a four-point lead and extended it to six with 1:21 to go before the half. Xavier Armstead ended the half on a 4-0 run of his own to cut the lead to two, 32-30.
Ranger extended the lead to four early in the second half but the Highlanders stepped up. McLennan took a one-point lead on a pair of Willie Thomas free throws with 12:45 to play in the game. The Highlanders would lead by three, 50-47 with 9:12 remaining. A 10-0 run by the Rangers took almost four minutes off the clock and gave Ranger the seven-point lead, 57-50. McLennan cut the lead to five several times late but was unable to get any closer.
Sophomore Xavier Armstead led McLennan with 16 points. Freshman Willie Thomas and sophomore Javen Hedgeman added 12 and 11, respectively.
In women’s action, it was a low-scoring battle between the Highlassies and Lady Ranger with Ranger picking up the 57-47 victory.
McLennan came out shooting, opening the game on a 10-2 run highlighted by five points from Kenidi White. The Highlassie defense held its own to start the game, holding the Lady Rangers to one jumper in the first five plus minutes of play. Ranger found the basket late in the period and trimmed the McLennan lead to four going into the second quarter, 14-10.
The Lady Rangers’ momentum carried over into the second quarter. Ranger took a one-point lead at 15-14 on a Coco Williams 3-pointer with 7:32 to play in the quarter. Ranger extended the lead to eight with just under four minutes remaining before the half. McLennan rallied late sparked by five points from Annya Moss and cut the lead to three at the break, 28-25.
In the third quarter, Ranger began to pull away taking the first double-digit lead of the contest with 7:28 to play in the period, 36-25. The Lady Rangers would lead by nine heading to the fourth, 43-34. A 7-0 run to start the last quarter would put Ranger up by 16, 50-34. McLennan battled back, using an 11-2 run over the next five minutes to get within seven, 52-45. That would be as close as the Highlassies could get.
KeeKee Nowlin and Annya Moss led the Highlassies with eight points each.
McLennan returns to action Saturday, traveling to Plano for an afternoon doubleheader with Collin. Women’s action begins at 2 p.m., followed by the men’s game at 4 p.m.