ABILENE — The Howard Payne Lady Jackets fell back into third place in the American Southwest Conference West Division standings, three games behind front-runner Mary Hardin-Baylor with three games remaining, following Thursday night's 70-69 loss at McMurry.
Leading by 14 points, 43-29, at halftime, the Lady Jackets (13-9, 9-6) were unable to maintain the lead en route to dropping their third contest in the last four outings. McMurry (12-10, 10-5) leapfrogged HPU into second place, 2 ½ games back of UMHB (19-3, 12-2).
A pair of Djimonii Jackson free throws with 12 seconds left gave Howard Payne a 69-68 edge, but McMurry's Sham Hunter converted a layup with two seconds to go to complete the comeback.
Howard Payne jumped out to a 14-point halftime edge thanks to 48 percent (15 of 31) shooting in the opening half, but converted just 31 percent (10 of 32) of its shots in the second half. McMurry, meanwhile, sank 90 percent (9 of 10) of its field goals in the third period and 59 percent (16 of 27) in the second half to spark the rally.
The Lady Jackets were also outrebounded, 50-34.
HPU led throughout, and by as many as 18 points in the first half, until the 2:03 mark of the fourth quarter when a jumper by Skyler Reyna pushed McMurry in front, 65-64.
Howard Payne regained a 66-65 edge with 1:39 left on a jumper by Jada Evans, who led the Lady Jackets with 22 points, and Jackson added a free throw with 21 seconds left to make the score 67-65. But Reyna converted a traditional three-point play with 15 seconds to go to push McMurry back in front, 68-67.
Presley McKethan chipped in 10 points for Howard Payne followed by seven from Jackson, six each from Valarie Matlock, Caprica Brooks, Arriyanna Forch and Anastasia Wills, four from Dominique Featherstone and two points from Jordan Sweat.
McMurry received double-doubles of 16 points and 13 rebounds from Hunter and 13 points and 16 boards from Reyna. Monica Jones also tallied 13 points and London Weilert chipped in 10.
Needing to win out and have UMHB drop its last three games to keep their hopes of ASC West Division three-peat alive, the Lady Jackets visit Hardin-Simmons at 2 p.m. Saturday.