Castillo's 22-point, 21-rebound effort powers HPU to three-game lead

With five American Southwest Conference games remaining, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets now own a three-game lead over the three nearest teams in the West Division race to host the conference championship tournament.

The Lady Jackets pummeled the Sul Ross Lady Lobos, 69-44, at the Brownwood Coliseum Saturday afternoon, while Mary Hardin-Baylor squandered a six-point lead in the final 90 seconds of a 76-73 loss to McMurry, and Concordia knocked off Hardin-Simmons, 85-69.

Howard Payne (12-8, 9-2) has defeated both Sul Ross (9-11, 6-5) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (13-7, 6-5) in Brownwood, but will return the trips to Alpine (Feb. 18) and Belton (Feb. 11). HPU dropped its home contest against Concordia (13-7, 6-5) and will venture to Austin Feb. 9.

“I told them this was a big game we needed, and Mary Hardin-Baylor losing was big for us, too,” said Lady Jackets head coach Meia Daniels-Netter. “We need a lead and I knew that by not playing Thursday some teams were going to catch up to us. But I’m more proud of the way they bounced back from last Saturday (75-71 home loss to Concordia). Today they had fun, put no pressure on themselves and just played.”

In Saturday’s triumph, Sarahi Castillo powered Howard Payne’s effort with a double-double of 22 points and 21 rebounds — the second-highest total ever for a Lady Jacket in a single game.

“Sarahi got her shot back and that’s the biggest thing she needed, to see herself be able to get rebounds and score again,” Daniels-Netter said. “The girls kept staring at me like, ‘Why are you calling the same play?’ I said, ‘If she’s feeling it, you let her score. If she’s going to keep going, let her keep going until she stops.’ And she did a great job with it.”

Along with Castillo, Valarie Matlock finished in double figures with 11 points while Jada Evans chipped in 10. Micah Cisneroz added eight points followed by Presley McKethan and Sabrina Ochoa with six apiece, Julissa Ibarra with three, Alexandria Davis with two and Kristin Cunningham with one point.

Howard Payne shot 44 percent (27 of 62) from the floor, owned a 50-32 edge in rebounds and forced 19 turnovers.

Sul Ross converted only 29 percent (19 of 65) of its field goals as Katy Boren and Bayli Bowles led the way with 14 points apiece.

The Lady Jackets came a point shy of matching their season scoring average despite going scoreless the first 5:29 of the contest. In that time, however, Sul Ross amassed just four points, and by quarter’s end the Lady Jackets had grabbed an 11-6 advantage.

Leading 13-11 early in the second period, Howard Payne reeled off 11 consecutive points to seize control, 24-11, at the 5:34 juncture. A jumper from Castillo started the run followed by a trey from Ochoa, a traditional three-point play from Cisneroz, and another three-ball from Ochoa.

The first-half lead peaked at 14 points, 28-14, on a layup by Castillo at the 2:06 mark, but Sul Ross closed the half with the final seven points to creep within 28-21 at intermission.

The Lady Jackets put the game away in the third period, outscoring Sul Ross, 22-8, to increase the cushion to 50-29 heading into the final stanza.

“I told them they couldn’t come out here and think this was a typical Sul Ross team,” Daniels-Netter said. “They were going to have to play hard and not let up. And for the first time since I think the LeTourneau game, we didn’t let up and lose the lead.”

In the fourth period, HPU’s advantage peaked at 26 points, 68-42, on a three-pointer by Ibarra with 1:42 remaining.

Next up for the Lady Jackets is a 5:30 p.m. Thursday home tilt against McMurry, which Howard Payne defeated at the buzzer, 51-48, in Abilene on Jan. 14.

---

ASC WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

WEST DIVISION

Conf. Overall

W L W L

Howard Payne 9 2 12 8

Concordia 6 5 13 7

Mary Hardin-Baylor 6 5 13 7

Sul Ross 6 5 9 11

Hardin-Simmons 3 8 7 12

*McMurry 2 9 6 13

* ineligible for postseason/reclassifying

———

EAST DIVISION

Conf. Overall

W L W L

UT-Dallas 10 1 16 3

UT-Tyler 8 4 15 5

LeTourneau 7 5 10 10

Louisiana College 5 6 6 11

Ozarks 4 7 9 10

East Texas Baptist 1 10 3 16

*Belhaven x x 10 9

* ineligible for postseason/provisional

———

Saturday’s Games

Howard Payne 69, Sul Ross 44

McMurry 76, Mary Hardin-Baylor 73

Concordia 86, Hardin-Simmons 69

Louisiana College 92, LeTourneau 78

UT-Tyler 87, East Texas Baptist 73

Ozarks 75, Belhaven 65