Trailing by as many as 16 points in the second half, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets trimmed Mary Hardin-Baylor’s advantage to three points with less than a minute left, but the No. 7 Lady Crusaders managed to escape the Brownwood Coliseum Thursday night with a 74-69 American Southwest Conference victory.
ASC West-leading UMHB (18-1, 10-0) shot just 36 percent (21 of 58) from the floor, and 14 percent (2 of 14) from the three-point arc, but got to the free throw line 46 times where it converted 30 attempts (65 percent). The Lady Crusaders also forced 19 HPU turnovers, which led to 25 points, while the Lady Jackets mustered just eight points off 13 Mary Hardin-Baylor giveaways.
Kendall Rollins led UMHB with 16 points followed by Hannah Holt with 12, Aubrie Elliott with 10, Alicia Blackwell with nine, 6-foot-6 post D’Ashaih Williams with eight, Madison McCoy with seven, Allaira Jones with five, Bethany McLeod and Brooke Elliott with three each and Ashley Caldwell with one point.
The Lady Jackets (6-13, 3-7) connected on only 31 percent (16 of 51) of their field goal attempts and 28 percent (5 of 18) of their treys, but were 32 of 37 (87 percent) from the free throw line.
Payge Grable finished with a game-high 22 points for HPU trailed by Chelsey Harris with 13, Salina Ali with 12, Lily Janek with seven, Anastasia Willis with six, Chelsi Woodard with five and Caprica Brooks with four points.
HPU’s first of multiple 16-point deficits, 54-38, came with 5:43 left in the third period on a bucket by Jones. Back-to-back three-pointers from Grable brought the Lady Jackets within 10 points, 54-44, with 4:14 left in the frame. At end of the third, HPU still faced a 10-point deficit, 61-51.
In the fourth quarter, UHMB quickly extended its lead back to 16 points, 67-51, with 6:51 remaining. The Lady Jackets, however, responded with a 16-3 spurt of their own.
Free throws from Grable and Ali and a bucket from Brooks allowed HPU to again reduce the deficit to 10 points, 67-57. With UMHB in front 70-60 at the 2:05 mark, Grable knocked down two more free throws, then Janek converted a traditional three-point play to quickly slice the Lady Crusaders’ lead in half, 70-65, with 1:12 remaining.
With 52 seconds to go, Grable drained two more free throws as HPU trimmed UMHB’s advantage to a single possession, 70-67.
Just nine seconds later, however, Blackwell responded for UMHB to push the lead to 72-67. HPU came up empty on its next trip down court, and McCoy then added a free throw as the Lady Crusaders’ lead stood at 73-67 with 23 seconds left.
Grable tacked on two more free throws with 16 seconds left, and Elliott added one for UMHB and the final five-point margin.
In the first half, the Lady Jackets remained within a possession or two until the final three-plus minutes. Down 30-28 after a three-pointer by Grable with 3:31 left in the half, HPU was outscored 11-4 the rest of the way as UMHB owned a 41-32 advantage at the break.
The Lady Jackets’ last lead of 14-13 occurred with 3:31 left in the first period following a trey by Ali.
Howard Payne will attempt to rebound at 1 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Concordia (7-12, 3-7), which lost 61-60 at Sul Ross (5-14, 3-7) Thursday night. HPU, Concordia, Sul Ross and McMurry (6-13, 3-7) are currently in a four-way tie for third place in the ASC West Division.