Coaches and players like to talk about intensity as if it's something that can be bottled and stored away for use at appropriate times, but in truth it's an intangible thing that you either have or you don't.
Thursday night against Odessa College, the Howard College Hawks lacked intensity in the first half. The second half, however, was a far different story.
The Hawks rebounded from a double-digit deficit in the first half to earn a 91-88 overtime win over OC in a Western Junior College Athletic Conference thriller at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum Thursday night.
The victory improved Howard's record to 14-4 overall and allowed them to stay in second place in the WJCAC with a 2-1 league mark. Odessa fell to 17-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
The game was a study in marked contrasts. The first half belonged firmly to Odessa, which made four of its first five shots en route to claiming a 30-16 lead with less than seven minutes left until halftime.
Howard's Calvin Godrey, who led the Hawks with 22 points, said the team wasn't prepared for the OC offensive attack it saw Thursday, noting that the Wranglers' inside play (the Wranglers scored the majority of their first half points from inside 15 feet) came as a sort of rude surprise.
For Howard Coach Mark Adams, however, matters came down to that intensity thing.
“(Odessa) was just so tenacious on the boards (in the first half),” Adams said. “They were getting a lot of second-opportunity baskets. Then again, I think Odessa is the best rebounding team in the nation. It's a tradition they have.”
Shortly before halftime, however, the Hawks served notice that the game wouldn't be OC cakewalk it had been in the first 17 minutes of play. Fueled by a pair of Rico Richardson three-pointers, Howard closed the half with a 12-5 run that cut the Wrangers' lead to 43-36 at intermission.
That hot streak continued in the opening minutes of the second half. Jacob Thomas started things off with a three-pointer from the left wing and the Hawks took less than seven minutes to knot the contest at 54-all.
“In the second half, we realized we all had to come together,” Godfrey said. “When we can do that, we feel we can't be stopped … In the second half, everybody contributed.”
To Adams, however, it was a matter of the Hawks cranking up their — you guessed it — intensity.
“Our guys could have quit, but they got themselves back into the game,” he said. “They were able to maintain a high level of intensity during the second half and overtime.”
Each one of those contributions Gofrey talked about became vital in the final 13 minutes of regulation and into overtime, a stretch that featured 14 ties or lead changes.
Neither team was able to build a lead of more than four points during this period, but the Hawks appeared to finally gain control when Leon Cooper sank a free throw with 18 seconds left in regulation to give Howard a 77-74 lead.
However, Odessa quickly worked the ball downcourt and found Jaamon Echols alone behind the three-point line. His long-range jumper with 10 seconds remaining tied the score and sent matters into overtime.
The Hawks built their biggest lead of the game in the extra period when a Jerry Dixon jumper gave them an 85-79 advantage with 2:19 remaining.
But OC closed the gap again and a Derrick Barden free throw with 55 second left cut the Hawks' lead to 87-86.
With the game in the balance, Godfrey came up with the signature play of the night. As the shot clock was winding down, Shavon Coleman attempted an off-balance jumper that barely hit the backboard, but Godfrey swooped in from the right wing to collect the rebound and deliver a thunderous dunk that ignited the sparse coliseum crowd.
“I saw Shavon get trapped, so I called for the ball, but he wasn't able to get it to me,” Godfrey said. “So, I just went with my second instinct, which was get to the board … Thankfully, it ended pretty.”
Coleman added a pair of free throws with four seconds left to finally ice the game.
“There was a sense of urgency tonight, coming out of the loss at Midland (Monday),” Adams said. “I'd like to see that kind of intensity be there at the start of the game, but we found it, and hopefully, it's something we can carry over to the next game.”
ODESSA (88) — Jaamon Echols 3-8 0-1 9; Derrick Barden 5-13 4-4 15; Jalondre McClanahan 2-4 1-2 5; Deonnte Breedlove 2-4 0-0 5; Kewyn Blain 3-3 2-2 8; Brandon Williams 2-3 1-2 5; Damal Donaldson 2-6 4-4 8; Javontay Baynes 0-1 1-1 1; Matthew Hunter 13-24 0-1 30; Daniel Hield 0-0 0-0 0; totals 32-66 13-17 88.
HOWARD (91) — Jerry Dixon 2-11 3-4 7; Leon Cooper 2-4 5-6 10; Rico Richardson 4-7 2-2 12; Jacob Thomas 5-12 1-2 14; Calvin Godfrey 8-13 6-8 22; Phillip Miller 2-3 2-2 7; Shavon Coleman 7-14 4-5 19; Damiel McGee 0-2 0-0 0; Marsilles Stewart 0-1 0-0 0; totals 30-67 23-29 91.
Halftime — Odessa 43, Howard 36; Regulation — Howard 77, Odessa 77; Three-point goals — Odessa (Echols 3, Barden, Breedlove, Hunter 4), Howard (Cooper, Richardson 2, Thomas 3, Miller, Coleman); Rebounds — Odessa 44 (Hunter 11); Howard 36 (Godfrey 7); Assists — Odessa 7 (Echols 3); Howard 11 (Dixon 5); Turnovers — Odessa 12, Howard 7; Total fouls — Odessa 21, Howard 14; Fouled out — Hunter, Richardson; Technicals — none; Delay of game — Godfrey.