After moving as high as the No. 2 national ranking late in the season, the Owens Community College women's basketball team hit a lull recently and lost three consecutive games.
The Express went into the first round of the National Junior College Athletic Association district tournament at Owens yesterday needing to get back on the right track before it could consider any kind of postseason.
Owens, which had won 18 straight games before its recent slide, recaptured its mojo and routed Macomb CC 92-54 to advance into today's semifinal at 2 p.m. against St. Clair County CC.
"There was the winning streak and the national ranking and all of the attention that goes with it, and we took a little bit of a mental break and tended to relax as we came down the stretch," Owens coach Michael Llanas said. "We had to get that out of our heads, and get back to being precise about our mental outlook."
The No. 6-ranked Express (26-5) allowed Macomb to hang around through most of the first half, but took control of the game after a Sarah Clark 3-pointer with about four minutes left gave Owens a 23-21 edge. The Express pushed the lead to 36-23 by the intermission.
"We had been rushing things a lot, and when people are gunning for you, it's easy to get caught up in things," Llanas said. "I felt like we just needed to be more sharp, and make some baskets. The longer you go missing shots you normally make - it wears on you."
Brittany Darling, a 6-foot-5 center from Genoa, finished with 15 points, with most of those coming off her nine offensive rebounds. She collected 20 rebounds to lead Owens to a 61-37 advantage on the boards and blocked three shots.
Macomb collapsed its defense around Darling and the Express had to rely more on outside shooting and guard play. Owens hit 6-of-14 shots from outside the arc in the second half, and overwhelmed Macomb on the boards.
"This team challenged us and said they weren't going to let Brittany Darling beat them, and teams are going to continue to do that, so we have to make shots," Llanas said. "We know what our strength is, but we can't be stubborn and keep going to her if the defense is stacked to take that away."
Clark added 13 points for the Express. Rashanna Johnson added 11 and Nasumbi Beard had 10.
KIRTLAND, Ohio - Owens CC men's basketball team dropped a 67-64 decision to Sinclair CC in the NJCAA Region XII tournament.
The Express, which finishes
17-14, were led by Jon Dunn who had 25 points and seven rebounds. DaLante Heard had 10 points.
Contact Matt Markey at: