Trailing by as many as 19 points in the first half to the only undefeated team remaining in American Southwest Conference action, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets trimmed the deficit to a single possession, but could not complete the comeback.
The defending ASC West champion Lady Jackets' six-game win streak reached its conclusion with an 82-79 loss to the ASC East front-running East Texas Baptist Lady Tigers Monday night at the Brownwood Coliseum.
“The biggest thing is we dug ourselves a hole in the first half,” said Lady Jackets head coach Meia Daniels-Netter. “We knew ETBU was undefeated in conference and the top team for us to play against, and some of the girls got a little nervous. But to only lose that game by three after being down by almost 20 shows me the fight they have and how good they are. I'm proud of the way we ended the game.”
Howard Payne (9-6, 5-2) began the fourth period down 11 points and ETBU (12-1, 6-0) increased its cushion to 15 points, 65-50, with 8:35 remaining.
Still trailing by 10 points, 69-59, at 4:19 mark, the Lady Jackets reeled off seven points in a row. Jada Evans' bucket trimmed the gap to eight points, then Valarie Matlock scored off a steal to shave the deficit to six. With 2:37 to go, Anastasia Willis converted a traditional three-play in the paint as ETBU's lead stood at 69-66.
“Sometimes when the girls are playing against a team that's playing zone they want to light it up and shoot threes,” Daniels-Netter said. “At halftime I got them to understand that we can still get to the basket, they are still fouling us too, and that would open up our shots. They started doing that in the second half and that's how we got some threes off.”
Howard Payne drained 6 of 12 treys in the second half and 10 of 26 for the game, but ETBU countered by converting 27 of 32 free throws — which kept the Lady Tigers in front down the stretch.
“We gave them 27 points from our fouls, so we could have done a better job of that,” Daniels-Netter said. “Seeing the refs call the game really tight, I think that affected us because we let ETBU shoot more than 30 free throws today. We haven't had a game in the last three where anyone has taken 20 free throws. That was a big difference.”
The Lady Jackets stayed within six points the rest of the game and reduced the deficit back to three points, 79-76, on an Evans trey with 12 seconds to go. After a pair of ETBU free throws, Howard Payne trailed by five, but a Presley McKethan three-pointer closed the gap to 81-79 with eight seconds left.
ETBU's Baylie Lindsay converted the second of two free throws with four seconds to go, giving HPU an opportunity to tie and force overtime. But Evans' three-point attempt came up short at the buzzer, bouncing off the front iron as the Lady Tigers survived down the stretch.
In the first half, the Lady Jackets trailed 17-12 after one quarter and faced a 19-point deficit, 40-21, at the 2:39 mark of the second period before creeping within a dozen, 43-31, at halftime.
Howard Payne shot just 37 percent (27 of 74) from the floor for the game and 60 percent (15 of 25) from the foul line, led by 20 points off the bench from Chelsey Harris. Evans also finished in double figures with 15 points as did Willis and McKethan with 12 and 11 respectively. Also scoring for the Lady Jackets were Dominique Featherstone with seven points, Caprica Brooks with six, Matlock with five and Djimonii Jackson with three points.
ETBU drained 51 percent (25 of 49) of its field goals as Sydney Saxton finished with 17 points trailed by Erin Meeks with 15, Kim Childress with 14 and Madison McCoy with 13.
The Lady Jackets begin play against ASC West foes at 2 p.m. Saturday when they venture to Sul Ross (5-10, 3-4).