The No. 19 Howard Payne Lady Jackets put their first loss in the last 40 games behind them, and extended their win streak at the Brownwood Coliseum to 39 games in the process.
The defending NCAA Division III national champions - who unveiled their championship banner following Saturday’s game - completed their American Southwest Conference season sweep of the Sul Ross Lady Lobos with a 71-53 victory.
The game marked the first action for the Lady Jackets since their 77-55 loss at UT-Dallas on Dec. 6, which ended strings of 39 straight wins, 38 consecutive over ASC competition and 22 in a row away from home.
“The streaks were lost, but it was very important for us to bounce back and the girls understood that,” said Lady Jackets first-year head coach Josh Prock. “We struggled for a little bit, but I think the girls did a good job toward the end of the game finishing the game out. They played extremely hard and went back to the way they’ve always played, which is good, solid defense and good rebounding.”
The Lady Jackets (7-1, 5-1) forced 25 turnovers, won the rebounding battle, 43-25, and limited Sul Ross (0-8, 0-6) to 39 percent (17-of-44) shooting. Isela Garza led the Lady Lobos with 14 points and Angelique Benton added 11.
“Defense and rebounding is how you win championships,” Prock said. “In NCAA Division I, II or III, either men or women, teams that win national championships are usually first or second in either scoring defense or rebounding margin. There’s a huge correlation there, and that’s what we preach.”
Offensively, Howard Payne converted 40 percent (25-of-63) of its shots and nailed 8-of-27 (30 percent) three-point attempts.
Four Lady Jackets finished in double figures, led by Katy Sarem’s 15-point effort. Elaine Hobbs contributed another double-double of 13 points and a team-high 13 rebounds, while Stephanie Brewer poured in 11 points and Tiffany Warner added 10.
Howard Payne also received nine points and eight rebounds from Hope Hohertz, while Sarah Jockers tallied six points and 10 boards. Kelsey Miller and Sarah Pfiester finished with five and two points, respectively.
“As a coach I love balance offensively,” Prock said. “I don’t want one kid to average 30 points. I’d love to have 10, 11 or 12 points from all of our kids. We tell the kids when they have an open shot to have confidence in yourself and step up and make it. The more they play, the more confidence they are getting.”
The Lady Jackets had to withstand an early second-half run by Sul Ross that pushed the Lady Lobos into the lead, 35-33, with 16:39 left in the game. Howard Payne led 29-22 at intermission, but allowed a trio of three-pointers - Sul Ross converted 8-of-24 overall - during the opening 1:54 of the second half as the Lady Lobos drew even at 31-all.
“Our emphasis is usually on the first five minutes of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half, and obviously we didn’t come out very good either half,” said Prock, whose team also allowed seven of the game’s first nine points. “We called a time out and got the girls regrouped. The girls understood they had to pick up their effort and energy, and that’s why we made that run.”
An 11-1 spurt gave Howard Payne the lead for good as a jumper by Hohertz forged the Lady Jackets back in front, 36-35, at the 16:11 mark. Hobbs then followed with a three-pointer 50 seconds later to stretch the lead to 39-35.
Following a Garza free throw, the Lady Jackets scored on a Hobbs free throw and layups by Hohertz and Sarem to increase their lead to 44-36 with 11:08 remaining.
Sul Ross trimmed the deficit back to five points, 50-45, with 8:30 left on a pair of Kayla Leal free throws, but Howard Payne answered with nine of the next 11 points to open its first double-digit lead, 59-47, with 5:17 remaining.
The Lady Jackets will attempt to run their home win streak to 40 games when they host Mississippi College (7-1, 3-1) in ASC action at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
No. 19 Lady Jackets 71,
Sul Ross 53
Sul Ross 22 31 - 53
Howard Payne 29 42 - 71 Leading scorers
Sul Ross: Isela Garza 14, Angelique Benton 11, Casi Tribett 8, Brittany Hatch 7, Kayla Leal 6, Hailey Frerichs 5, DeShonna Hill 2.
HPU: Katy Sarem 15, Elaine Hobbs 13, Stephanie Brewer 11, Tiffany Warner 10, Hope Hohertz 9, Sarah Jockers 6, Kelsey Miller 5, Sarah Pfiester 2.
ASC Women’s Basketball
W L W L
McMurry 3 0 4 1
Howard Payne 5 1 7 1
Concordia 3 1 3 1
Mary Hardin-Baylor 3 1 3 3
Hardin-Simmons 1 2 3 2
Schreiner 0 3 0 5
Texas Lutheran 0 4 1 5
Sul Ross 0 6 0 8
W L W L
UT-Dallas 4 0 6 1
Mississippi College 3 1 7 1
UT-Tyler 3 1 6 2
Louisiana College 2 2 4 2
East Texas Baptist 2 3 2 5
Ozarks 1 3 3 5
LeTourneau 1 3 2 7