SAN ANTONIO — Down seven points with 11 minutes remaining, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets rallied to grab a seven-point lead of their own with 55 seconds left.
But the Lady Jackets were unable to hold on to the advantage, and the Illinois Wesleyan Titans secured a stunning 93-87 overtime victory Saturday in the opening round of the Trinity Christmas Classic.
The loss was the second straight in surprising fashion for the Lady Jackets (5-3), who were coming off a 72-56 defeat at struggling American Southwest Conference rival Hardin-Simmons on Dec. 14.
Danyel Bradley scored 24 points Saturday to lead HPU followed by 19 from Britani Gattis, 12 each from Sarahi Castillo and Yessenia Cazares, eight apiece from Sarah Van Remmen and Kalin Hanna and two points each from Jessica Leaks and McKinley Meyer.
Hanna grabbed 14 rebounds and Van Remmen pulled down 12 as HPU tallied 54 for the game, one more than the Titans.
For Illinois Wesleyan (6-4), Shelby Jackson recorded 24 points, Colleen McMahon notched 23 points and Lexi Baites chalked up 14 points with 16 rebounds.
Trailing 53-46 at the 11:07 mark, the Lady Jackets pulled even at 53 with 9:09 to go.
The 7-0 HPU spurt featured a bucket from Bradley followed by a deuce and trey from Gattis.
Knotted at 66 with 5:11 remaining, the Lady Jackets went on a 10-3 run to take what appeared to be control of the contest.
Leading 68-67, HPU tallied four points in succession — two on free throws by Van Remmen and two on a bucket by Bradley — to stretch the lead to 72-67 with 1:59 to go.
Illinois Wesleyan cut the deficit to 72-69, but a bucket by Van Remmen and two free throws from Bradley gave HPU its largest lead of the half, 76-69, with 1:26 on the clock.
The Lady Jackets were still in front by seven, 78-71, following a bucket by Hanna, but turned the ball over twice and missed a game-winning jumper with two seconds left.
IWU’s Jackson scored in the paint with 46 seconds left, McMahon hit a layup with 37 seconds to go and Bates drained a tying trey with 31 seconds remaining as the seven-point cushion vanished in just 15 seconds.
In overtime, Howard Payne yielded 10 of the first 12 points to fall behind 88-80 and got no closer than three points, 88-85, with 2:32 remaining.
The Lady Jackets will face No. 10 George Fox (6-0) at 2 p.m. today. George Fox won the 2009 national championship, one year after HPU claimed its national title in 2008.