Rickey Guillory’s putback at the buzzer completed another second-half comeback for the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets, who improved to 4-1 in American Southwest Conference action with a nail-biting 87-85 triumph over the UT-Dallas Comets Saturday afternoon at the Brownwood Coliseum.
Howard Payne (5-4, 4-1), which trailed by as many as nine points in the first half, saw an 11-point second-half advantage evaporate on a tying three-pointer by UT-Dallas’ (1-7, 1-2) Kyle Coulter with seven seconds remaining.
The Yellow Jackets inbounded the ball and with three seconds left, Khyce Randall fired a shot from near half court. The ball bounced off the back iron and was caught in mid-air by Guillory, just inside the three-point arc. Guidry then hurled the ball before his feet touched the ground, and the ball found the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded.
After a brief video review by officials, the Yellow Jackets were awarded the bucket and the victory.
“It was a miracle, that’s what it was,” Guillory said in a postgame radio interview. “I thank God it went in. I just feel lucky for my teammates and myself. It was definitely just a reaction, like when you’re a kid and you always throw the ball up at the goal in the last seconds. Once it left it felt good but I didn’t know if it was going to go in.”
HPU head coach Troy Drummond said of Guillory’s game-winner, “That was just unbelievable. We couldn’t have drawn anything up to mimic that. Players make plays, and that’s what he did.”
The victory keeps the Yellow Jackets atop the American Southwest Conference West Division standings heading into the Christmas break, as HPU’s next league action falls Jan. 3 at Louisiana College (2-5, 0-3).
“There are so many good teams in this league, so every win is big,” Drummond said. “To win a game like this, where we didn’t play our best, means a lot to this group. We’ll take a few days off, address some issues to get better and advance. We have a great group of guys that have bought into being a together group. I’m looking forward to see how we grow from here.”
Guillory finished with 27 points trailed by 20 from Randall, 14 from J Bailey, nine from Shadd Cole, six from De’Marcus Hurd, four from Donovan Jenkins, three from Cody Hastings and two points apiece from David Dingle and Thomas Bingham.
Howard Payne converted 55 percent (34 of 62) of shots and 44 percent (11 of 25) of its three-pointers, while doubling up UT-Dallas in rebounds, 42-21. The Comets knocked down 50 percent (29 of 58) of their field goal attempts and 50 percent (14 of 28) of their treys with only six turnovers, and owned a five-point edge at the free throw line.
Leading the way offensively for the Comets were Jon Hatcher with 24 points, Caleb Banks with 18, Coulter with 13 and Ben Smith with 10.
UT-Dallas established a 49-40 halftime advantage, but Howard Payne reeled off nine of the first 11 points of the second half to creep within 51-49 with 15:55 to go. Guillory accounted for seven points while Cole added a pair.
The Yellow Jackets finally pulled even at 59 with 12:36 left on the clock following a pair of free throws by Randall. Randall followed with a three-pointer just 15 seconds later which served as the trigger for a 12-2 surge that gave Howard Payne a 71-61 lead with 8:44 remaining. During the run, Bailey contributed four points, Randall and Guillory added three each and Jenkins chipped in with a bucket.
The lead peaked at 11 points, 73-62, when Bingham scored in the paint with 7:59 left.
“We’ve collectively done a better job at guarding in the second half, which is important, but we need to be better right out of the gate,” Drummond said regarding his team’s second-half performances of late. “It really helps when guys step up and hit their shots. I’m proud of how we have responded coming out of halftime.”
Leading 82-74 with 4:17 left, the Yellow Jackets fell victim to an 11-3 closing run by UT-Dallas, which forced Guillory’s late heroics.
Howard Payne will face Division I Texas State at 7 p.m. Tuesday then venture to Trinity at 3 p.m. Dec. 31 before resuming ASC action after the first of the year.