Turning in their best defensive performance under first-year head coach Yannick Denson, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets soared into sole possession of third place in the American Southwest Conference West Division standings with a 61-35 victory over the Concordia Lady Tornados Saturday afternoon at the Brownwood Coliseum.
The Lady Jackets limited Concordia to 21 percent shooting (11 of 52) from the floor, including 19 percent shooting (6 of 31) from beyond the three-point arc. Concordia also converted just 50 percent (7 of 14) of its free throw opportunities.
Meanwhile, Howard Payne sank 42 percent (23 of 55) of its shots, including 31 percent (8 of 26) of its three-pointers. The Lady Jackets owned a 47-33 edge in rebounds, which resulted in a 15-7 advantage in second-chance points. Also, HPU turned 19 Concordia turnovers into 17 points, while the Lady Tornados mustered just nine points off 21 Lady Jacket giveaways.
Chelsey Harris led the charge for Howard Payne with 20 points trailed by Anastasia Willis with 16, Salina Ali with nine, Payge Grable with eight, Lily Janek with four and Caprica Brooks and Chelsi Woodard with two points apiece.
For Concordia, Lindsay Carter poured in 11 points followed by eight from Kaycie Dunkerley, seven from Payton Berger, five from Keturah Taylor, two from Alyssa Marquez and on point each from Leigh Westbrook and Sam Hopper.
Howard Payne's win, coupled with Sul Ross's 71-46 loss to Mary Hardin-Baylor and McMurry's 72-64 loss to Hardin-Simmons, pushed the Lady Jackets (7-13, 4-7) a game ahead of Concordia (7-13, 3-8), Sul Ross (5-15, 3-8) and McMurry (6-14, 3-8) in the ASC West standings. HPU is three games back of second-place Hardin-Simmons (13-6, 7-4) and seven back of ASC West leader Mary Hardin-Baylor (19-1, 11-0).
Tied with Concordia at 8 with 4:19 left in the first period, the Lady Jackets reeled off eight consecutive points and never looked back. A bucket by Woodard and back-to-back three-pointers from Harris and Grable pushed the Lady Jackets in front, 16-8, with 1:58 left in the first period. After one quarter, Howard Payne maintained its eight-point cushion, 19-11.
The Lady Jackets seized control of the contest in the second period, tallying the first 13 points of the quarter. Another three-pointer from Harris began the surge, then Harris followed with a deuce. Leading 24-11, Janek knocked down a three-pointer and later added a free throw, while Harris and Grable tacked on jumpers to increase HPU's lead to 32-11 with 1:40 left in the period.
Concordia scored its only points of the the second period on a three-pointer by Dunkerley with 31 seconds left, as the Lady Tornados faced a 32-14 halftime deficit.
The Lady Jackets' lead hit 20 points for the first time, 38-18, on a layup by Willis with 7:05 left in the third — part of a string of 11 straight points that eventually boosted HPU's advantage to 44-18 at the 4:24 mark.
Howard Payne carried a 49-27 advantage into the fourth period and allowed single digits in points for the second quarter, giving up just eight over the final 10 minutes.
The Lady Jackets, who have five conference games remaining, are off Thursday but look to solidify their hold on third place in the ASC West at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sul Ross. The top four teams from the West will meet the top four teams from the East at the ASC championship tournament Feb. 21-23, hosted by the West No. 1 seed.