Conference basketball play begins for Collin College this week, with men's and women's games against three North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference opponents. Both teams are excited for this section of the season to get underway.
Don't forget. Home games are free for students, faculty and staff so you can enjoy Collin's athletics success without breaking the bank.
Both of Collin's teams have posted strong winning records in the lead-up to conference play. They Cougars are 13-1 and the Lady Cougars are 10-3 heading into home stands against Ranger College, Jan. 7.
The Lady Rangers bring a 10-2 record into the game and are coming off a 62-47 loss to Trinity Valley Community College in the McClennan Community College Shootout. Collin's Lady Cougars will have to shut down Ranger's Shan'Qaylia Stanton, who is putting up 12.4 points per game, and three other players who are just outside of double-digit scoring per game.
It will be a test for the Lady Cougars, but Coach Jeff Allen said the team has been testing itself all season long.
"We try to play as many tough teams as we can so that we will be ready for conference," Allen said in an interview before the holiday break. "We have played four games against teams ranked in the top 20 in the country. We are growing as a group and hopefully come conference we will be ready."
Allen said the team is focused on improving its defense. While the Lady Cougars average 77 points per game, ranking them sixth overall in Region 5 of the National Junior College Athletic Association, he said the team needs to "get tougher" on defense and limit opponents' scoring opportunities.
Allen seems confident in his players, who he said have developed great team chemistry in the first half of the season.
"I think that all of my players deserve to be recognized for being great teammates and understanding that we win as a team and we lose as a team," he said.
The Lady Cougars matchup with Ranger begins at 5:30 p.m., Jan. 7 at the Plano Campus gymnasium. That game will be followed by a road trip to Hill College two days later and a return home on Saturday, Jan. 12 to face McClennan Community College at 2 p.m.
Conference play is when things get serious and Allen said this may be the deepest bunch of conference teams he has seen in a long time.
"Every game is going to be tough, but if we can stay healthy and play at our highest level I think we have a shot," he said.
Men's coach Jim Sigona shares Allen's outlook on the strength of NTJCAC competition, noting that four or five teams look capable of winning a conference championship.
"Our conference is the toughest it has been in years," he said. "Three teams have been ranked in the top 25 (in the nation)."
The Cougars will face two of those teams in its first two games, with a 7:30 p.m. start , Monday, Jan. 7, at home against Ranger College (6) and a road game against Hill College (22) two days later.
That said, Sigona believes his player are ready and looking forward to conference play.
"We have had good leadership from our sophomores and the versatility to play with a big or small lineup," he said. "We have seen improvement each day and hopefully we are playing our best basketball in conference."
What are Sigona's keys for winning in conference?
"We need work to on limiting turnovers and get better defensively for us to be successful," he said.
Collin's men have a strong offense, led in scoring by Tajzmel Sherman, a returning Freshman of the Year, who is currently the fourth leading scorer in the country, with a 26.1 point average. And while Sherman is capable of taking over a game, teammates like Nighel Ceaser (10.7 ppg) and Lamont Simmons (9.1 ppg) and others all contribute to an average 90.7 points per outing.
Non-Conference Game Wrap-ups
The Cougars defeated the Paul Quinn Junior Varsity 91-72 at home Jan. 3. Sherman scored 38, followed by Mason Hix with 12 and Micheal Tate with 11. The team went 15-31 from behind the arc.
The Lady Cougars took Trinity Valley Community College, currently No. 1 in the NTJCAC, to overtime before falling 69-66 at the McClennan Community College Shootout, Jan. 2. Briana Marshall led scoring with 14, followed by Denae Lofton with 11. Christina Baker and Shala Robinson pulled down 12 and 10 rebounds respectively.
Collin' women got back to their winning ways the next day with a 63-51 victory over Blinn College. Jordynn Hernandez led scoring with 19, followed by Marshall (11) and Baker (10).