Howard basketball in New Mexico for date with T-Birds

Howard womenHoward College women’s basketball head coach Earl Diddle believes New Mexico Junior College is the team to beat in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference.There’s reason to believe him, too, the way he describes the Lady Thunderbirds.“I really feel that they’re one of the top teams in the league,” Diddle said. “They beat South Plains by 20 in the (WJCAC Pre-Conference Tournament). They pose a lot of problems for us. They shoot the 3 well and they have very, very good inside play. So they pose a lot of problems for everyone in the league.”The Hawks (15-3, 1-0 in conference play) will get their shot at NMJC at 5:45 p.m. MST today in Hobbs, N.M. in hopes of earning one of their more impressive wins of the season so far.Diddle said the Lady T-Birds (14-3, 0-0) have one of the best teams they’ve had in six years and there is a lot his team will have to key in on.The T-Birds have one of the best players in the league in freshman forward Teonna Campbell, who could give the Hawks problems from the perimeter and in the paint. The T-Birds ability to do both makes them tough to beat, and they’re just as versatile on defense. New Mexico Junior College can go from a full-court press to a 2-3 trapping zone defense or the T-Birds can stick to basic man-to-man defense, which Diddle said they do well, too.Establishing an inside presence is key in this game, Diddle said. That’s been a little more difficult to do since the loss of center Jackie Bartleson to injury earlier this season. But there are Tasha Tubbs and Taniqua Ards who have the ability to do that. The two combined for 30 points in Tuesday’s WJCAC opener against South Plains.Unlike that matchup against South Plains, though, this will be the first time Howard College faces NMJC. They didn’t get a chance to play the Thunderbird in the pre-conference tourney.“We played Midland, we played Odessa, South Plains. I think being on the road, I think this will be a real test for our young basketball team and realize we’ve played a good schedule. I think this will be real exciting. I know I’m looking forward to it.”Howard menThe defending national champions don’t want another close call like Monday.South Plains had a chance to knock off No. 8 Howard College in the WJCAC opener, but Shavon Coleman’s heroics gave the Hawks the spark they needed for a 73-63 win.They’ll go for another conference win against New Mexico Junior College at 7:45 p.m. MST today in Hobbs, N.M.Outside of Coleman’s shot late in the second half to give Howard its first lead since halftime against South Plains, Carlos Emory was huge with 19 points. Johnnie Lacy had 14 and Corey Stern chipped in 12.The Hawks (13-2,1-0) will need to keep the production consistent in tonight’s game, especially considering they’re still dealing with depth issues. In what’s been a recurring theme all season, the Hawks only have eight players. They hope Big Spring native and walk-on Jason Walker will help. Adams is hoping to get him on the roster soon. He said Walker’s athleticism will help him fit in nicely with the Hawks.“All eight of these guys have got to play,” Adams said. “Hopefully we can get Jason Walker next week, then we’ll have nine. Injuries and fouls are always a concern when we have so few players.”