If the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets are going to make a late charge at the West Division’s fourth and final American Southwest Conference championship tournament berth, it must start Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets remained three games behind fourth-place squads McMurry and Schreiner following Thursday’s 77-56 home loss to No. 10 Mary Hardin-Baylor. But HPU has just five games remaining on its schedule to make up ground, and Texas Lutheran also stands in the Yellow Jackets’ way, two games in front of head coach Troy Drummond’s squad in the standings.
In the first meeting between Howard Payne (8-12, 6-10) and UMHB (19-1, 15-1), the Yellow Jackets owned a 32-31 halftime lead. In the rematch, the Crusaders scored the game’s first eight points and HPU did not reach double figures until the 4:29 of the first half, after UMHB had already established a 28-9 advantage.
Mary Hardin-Baylor drained 53 percent (32-of-50) of its field goals, including 50 percent (8-of-16) of its 3-pointers. UMHB also owned a 42-33 edge in rebounds.
James Allen led the Cru with 19 points, followed by 16 points from Kitrick Bell and 13 points from Thomas Orr.
The Yellow Jackets — who tallied their second-fewest points in a game this season — connected on just 35 percent (23-of-65) of their shots, including a mere 29 percent (4-of-17) of their treys, while falling into a 42-23 hole by halftime.
Brandon Gould scored 14 points to pace the Yellow Jackets, while Brandon Irwin and Henry Valladares also finished in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Also scoring for HPU were Bryan Adams with eight points, Ja’Kaylan Gayden and Gabriel Garza with four apiece and Quentin Calloway with three points.
Trailing by as many as 21 points early in the second half, HPU trimmed UMHB’s lead to a dozen points on three occasions.
The first came with 15:54 left in the contest as a pair of Gayden free throws brought the Yellow Jackets within 45-33 to cap a 10-1 run.
The second was the result of a Gould 3-point play with 14:53 to go, which reduced UMHB’s lead to 48-36.
HPU again closed to within 12 points, 50-38, with 12:20 left following a jumper by Irwin. But Mary Hardin-Baylor responded with 15 of the next 18 points to stretch the lead to 24 points, 65-41, at 9:02 and coasted to the finish line.
The Yellow Jackets host third-place Concordia (12-8, 10-6) — which defeated HPU, 110-94, in Austin last week — at 1 p.m. Saturday. Howard Payne has dropped five of its last six ASC contests.