ALPINE — On Jan. 12, seven games into the American Southwest Conference schedule, the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets owned a share of the West Division lead. Nine games later, the Yellow Jackets’ season came to end as HPU missed out on one of the four West Division berths thanks to a 63-59 loss at Sul Ross Saturday.
The loss was the sixth in seven games for Howard Payne (12-12, 8-8), which could have earned the No. 4 seed from the West Division with a win Saturday. The Yellow Jackets led the bulk of the second half and were in front 59-58 with 31 seconds left. A three-pointer by Xavier Webb pushed Sul Ross (13-12, 9-7) — which locked up the West’s No. 4 seed — back in front with a half-minute left, and HPU missed two three-point attempts down the stretch to either regain the lead or pull even.
The Yellow Jackets led by as many as 10 points, 49-39, midway through the second half, but the final 10 minutes of the contest summed up Howard Payne’s 2016-17 season. The Yellow Jackets shot 40 percent (19 of 47), including 38 percent (6 of 16) on three-pointers, and also hit 65 percent (15 of 23) of their free throws, tallying six more points at the line than Sul Ross. Howard Payne also owned a 36-34 edge in rebounds and forced 11 turnovers, but still came up short.
Khyce Randall carried the Yellow Jackets with a 31-point effort, as no other HPU player reached double figures. Rickey Guillory chipped in eight points followed by J Bailey with seven, De’Marcus Hurd and Talen Davis-Renfro with five each, Shadd Cole with two points and Thomas Bingham with one.
Sul Ross, which led a total of 2:38 in the contest, knocked down 43 percent (24 of 56) of its field goals and 30 percent (6 of 20) of its treys, but just 50 percent (9 of 18) of its free throws. The Lobos did force 12 HPU turnovers, however, which resulted in 17 points.
The Lobos received 20 points from Caleb Thomasson, 15 from Jacob Dawson, 11 from Webb and 10 points from C.J. Ross.