HPU improves to 3-4 with victory in home opener

Six days prior to Saturday’s meeting at the Brownwood Coliseum, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets dropped a 57-49 road decision to the Southwestern Lady Pirates in Georgetown.

But in their home opener, the Lady Jackets rebounded from their lowest point total against an NCAA Division III opponent with their highest point output thus far en route to an 81-74 triumph over Southwestern in the rematch.

Howard Payne (3-4) overcame a 55 percent (27 of 49) shooting performance by Southwestern (2-4) and a 46-32 discrepancy in rebounds as the Lady Jackets forced 30 turnovers, with 19 due to steals, which translated into 32 points in the paint.

The Lady Jackets converted just 37 percent (27 of 73) of their field goal attempts, but made the same number of buckets as Southwestern while taking 24 more shots. Both teams converted 19 free throws.

Leading 42-39 at halftime, the Lady Jackets seized control by limiting Southwestern to just five points in the third period as Howard Payne carried a 56-44 lead into the final stanza.

Southwestern attempted to make a late charge, closing the gap to 51-48 with 4:28 left, but Valarie Matlock came through with a clutch jumper. The Lady Pirates later crept within 53-49 with 3:48 to go, but a three-pointer by Presley McKethan with 2:25 remaining gave HPU breathing room down the stretch. Still, Southwestern closed to within 70-66 at the 1:09 mark, but McKethan delivered a dagger with another trey with 53 seconds remaining to essentially ice the victory.

McKethan scored 12 of her 16 points in the final four minutes to help HPU put the game away, while Jada Evans’ team-best 24 points aided the Lady Jackets in establishing the lead, along with 18 from Matlock. Dominique Featherstone and Djimonii Jackson added six points apiece followed by three from Chelsey Harris, and two each from Anastasia Willis, Caprica Brooks, Chelsi Woodard and Arriyanna Forch.

Cecily Woolfork dominated in the paint for Southwestern with a double-double of 31 points and 14 rebounds, while Noel Parris chipped in 22 points. No other Lady Pirate scored more than 7 points.

The Lady Jackets visit NCAA Division I Abilene Christian University at 2 p.m. Saturday for an exhibition contest, then resume American Southwest Conference action at 5:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11 when LeTourneau comes to town.