The two-time reigning American Southwest Conference West champion Howard Payne Lady Jackets moved into a share of first place atop the division standings Saturday afternoon, leapfrogging the McMurry Lady War Hawks with a 75-62 victory at the Brownwood Coliseum.
With the win, the ninth in the last 10 games for Howard Payne (12-6, 8-2), the Lady Jackets jumped McMurry (10-7, 8-3) — which began the day in sole possession of first place — and remained tied while co-leader Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-3, 8-2), a 78-68 winner over Concordia that will host HPU Thursday night.
The Lady Jackets raced out to a 17-5 advantage after one quarter, which grew to 42-25 by halftime, and kept McMurry at arm's length the rest of the contest.
“We did come out strong,” said Lady Jackets head coach Meia Daniels-Netter. “It's big for us to talk about us quarters. I know they're probably not going to play great for a full 40 minutes, which is what every coach wants, but if you can play good for 26 minutes you should win the game. We came out in the first half and had a big lead after 20 minutes, then they stepped back a little in the third quarter, but the fourth quarter they fought to keep the lead.”
Howard Payne shot 47 percent (28 of 60) from the floor, including 37 percent (7 of 18) on three-pointers, while owning a 41-35 edge in rebounds, forcing 22 turnovers that led to 25 points and possessing a 24-5 edge in points off the bench.
Valarie Matlock led the charge with 24 points trailed by Chelsey Harris with 20 off the bench, Caprica Brooks and Jada Evans with nine points apiece, Presley McKethan with seven, and Anastasia Willis, Chelsi Woodard and Djimonii Jackson with two points each.
“At the beginning of the season we relied a lot on Presley, Val and Jada, and today Jada got in trouble but trouble but we were able to sub in Chelsey and Djimonii and they came in and did their job,” Daniels-Netter said. “The best thing for a coach is to be able to look down the bench and know you have kids you can put in there and they can help you both ways.”
McMurry, meanwhile, converted 38 percent (21 of 55) of its field goals, but just 35 percent (8 of 23) in the first half and only 25 percent (3 of 12) of its three-point attempts for the game.
Skyler Reyna led McMurry with 20 points followed by 16 from Sham Hunter and 12 from Isabel Carrion. Monica Jones was limited to two points, which was the Lady Jacket game plan.
“The biggest thing we knew how big No. 23 (Jones) was for them offensively, she averages about 15 points, and the plan was to basically come out and face guard her so we put Val on her for basically 38 minutes,” Daniels-Netter said. “That helped take away some of her shots she's used to getting. She takes the most shots on the team and for her only take six shots was pretty big. We were able to get in her head early and made other players on their team have to step up.”
Heading to Belton Thursday to face UMHB, the Lady Jackets have the chance to take sole possession of the ASC West lead and would have six conference games left on the schedule.
“It would be huge for us to get that advantage, you always want to be at least one game up,” Daniels-Netter said. “Protecting our house is the most important thing, but to get a win on the road would be big for us. UMHB is always a tough place to play, but I think we'll be ready to go. We were fired up for this game and we'll be ready to step up to the competition.”