The Howard Payne Yellow Jackets’ postseason hopes are hanging by the slimmest of threads.
The Yellow Jackets stayed 2.5 games back of eighth-place East Texas Baptist in the race for the final berth in the American Southwest Conference tournament, but just three contests remain following Thursday night’s 83-75 home loss to the Mississippi College Choctaws.
Howard Payne (4-18, 4-14), seeking its first ASC tournament appearance since 2008, dropped its seventh consecutive game and has lost 11 of the last 12 contests — all in American Southwest Conference action.
Mississippi College (8-13, 6-12) — which completed the season sweep of the Yellow Jackets, having defeated Howard Payne by an 86-75 count in Clinton, Miss. on Jan. 9 — pulled even with East Texas Baptist (8-13, 6-12) for eighth place in the ASC standings. However, since Mississippi College is leaving the conference next year to join the NCAA Division II ranks, the Choctaws are ineligible for postseason play.
The Yellow Jackets’ final three games include Saturday’s 3 p.m. home finale against Louisiana College (9-11, 9-9), Thursday’s road trip to last-place LeTourneau (4-17, 3-15) and a Feb. 22 date at ETBU.
Howard Payne went 1-2 against those teams during the first go-round in conference play losing to ETBU, 85-81 in overtime, and at Louisiana College, 88-82, while defeating LeTourneau, 67-63, at the Brownwood Coliseum.
In Thursday’s loss to Mississippi College, the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 12-point halftime lead, 43-31, but were outscored by 20 points in the second half. The Choctaws racked up 52 points over the final 20 minutes, shooting 71 percent (17 of 24) from the field.
Brandon Gould scored 26 points to pace Howard Payne trailed by a double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds from Quelan Lancaster. Jorden Young also finished in double figures with 13 points followed by Donovan Ford with eight points, Blake Arbogast with six and Nigele Robertson with four points.
For Mississippi College, Lakin Ford led the way with 16 points followed by Rayner Fredrick with 14 and Jay Case with 13 points.