Two OJC Rattler teams clinch Region Championships

Otero Rattlers

LA JUNTA – On Tuesday, March 13, Otero Junior College became the land where dreams come true. Before the night ended, the OJC Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams were each crowned Region IX Champions in their respective tournaments. The teams are now headed to National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) national tournaments, a historic first for both teams.

 The Lady Rattlers’ run for the regional championship began on March 9 in Casper, Wyoming at the Women’s Region IX Tournament. Under the direction of seventh-year head coach Taylor Wagner, the Lady Rattlers began their quest by walking through Dawson College with a score of 65-19. They followed up with a second win on Sunday, March 11 over Gillette College with a score of 84-54.

 On Monday, March 12, the women advanced to the Final Four for the third straight year where they defeated Central Wyoming College by a score of 66-53.

 That win put the Lady Rattlers in the championship round against long-time south-sub region rival Northeastern Junior College. Lead by NJCAA All Star, Aubry Boehme with 17 points, the Lady Rattlers defeated NJC by a score of 67-61.

 All-Tournament Team selections from Otero Junior College include:

Aubry Boehme, Smithfield, Utah; Taylor Rock, Smithfield, Utah and Ilaisaane Lo’amanu, Taylorsville, Utah.

 All-Region selections from Otero include: Aubry Boehme, Smithfield, Utah and Taylor Rock, Smithfield, Utah.

 The Lady Rattlers will now advance to the NJCAA Tournament to be held in Salina, Kan., starting on March 20, 2012. The women are the #7 seed and will play on Tuesday, March 20 at 2 p.m. vs. #10 seed Walters State Community College, Tenn.

 The OJC men’s road to victory started on March 9 in Scottsbluff, Neb. where the Men’s Region IX Tournament was held. The Rattlers, led sixth-year head coach Houston Reed, defeated Gillette College on Friday, March 9 with a score of 81-59. On Sunday, March 11 they defeated Sheridan College, with a score of 83-72, to advance to the Final Four of the Region IX tournament.

 In the Final Four, Otero defeated Miles Community College by a score of 88-81. Miles CC was the No. 1 Seed from the North Sub-Region.

 The championship round of the men’s tournament came down to a matchup between Otero Junior College and Casper College. In an ‘on-the-edge-of-your-seat’ championship game, the intensity of play was all that anyone could have hoped for as these two teams battled until the closing seconds for the right to advance to the national tournament. Otero led most of the game with its largest lead stretching in 14 points; however there were 10 lead changes and four ties. In the closing seconds the Rattlers widened the gap on a one point lead with a field goal to take the win with a score of 73-70.

 All-Tournament Team selections from Otero Junior College include:

Oscar Garcia, El Paso, Texas; Wes McKenzie, Colorado Springs and Brandon Harris, Oklahoma City, Okla.

 All-Region selections from Otero include: First-team – Adam Link, Colorado Springs and Third-team – Wes McKenzie, Colorado Springs.

 The Rattler men will now advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament to be held in Hutchinson, Kan., starting on March 20, 2012. Their first game will be played on Wednesday, March 21 against Wabash Valley College from Illinois. Wabash’s record is 25-8; Otero’s record now stands at 29-4.

 Gary Addington, OJC athletic director, summed up the accomplishments of both teams by saying, “We are all so very proud of Houston Reed and Taylor Wagner for leading their teams to this historic point in time for OJC athletics. Basketball has been a part of the OJC campus for over three decades and to have both teams reach this pinnacle of success at the same time is an amazing accomplishment. We are so proud of our student-athletes and coaches for their hard work and dedication both on the court and in the classroom that has brought us to this point. And the best part of all of this…we are not finished yet, as we go into the national tournaments next week poised to be serious contenders,” said Addington.

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