With the season wearing on and the bench becoming more of a factor each game, Howard Payne Lady Jacket junior guard Julissa Ibarra seems a role player coaches can count on.

Since joining HPU out of Warren High School in San Antonio, Ibarra steadily increased her playing time over two seasons and recently emerged as a shooting threat off the bench.

“I know I’m a shooter and when I go in I know my job is to shoot,” Ibarra said. “I have to get a shot off and make them. I try to make the most of my time when I go in.”

Despite ranking seventh in minutes played, Ibarra is third in 3-pointers with 22 and just a few percentage points behind Payge Grable for best shooting percentage behind the arc. Each game she averages at least one 3-pointer and showed potential against soon-to-be DII UT-Tyler, scoring a career high 15 points against the conference rival.

“I was just feeling it. I have to give it to my teammates,” Ibarra said. “They saw that I was open. We had good ball movement to get me open or move the defense so I could get a shot off. Since I don’t start, when I come off the bench I see what needs to be done. When I get in the game, I do my best to contribute through rebounds or points.”

Following last Saturday’s 65-60 victory over McMurry, the Lady Jackets find themselves in third place in the American Southwest Conference Western Division, needing at least fourth place to qualify for the conference tournament. With games against second place Hardin-Simmons and against McMurry and Concordia, who are both one game off the pace, Ibarra said it will not get any easier for HPU despite playing facing the softer side of the division.

“[Saturday] was intense and the rest of the season is going to be intense,” Ibarra said. “We have to get where we want to be and we’re not quite there yet. In order for that to happen, we’re going to have to keep pushing and working hard.”

Ibarra majors in criminal justice. After graduating in 2020, she plans to attend the San Antonio Police Academy and become a career K9 officer. She said being a K9 officer is almost a family tradition and she hopes to continue that tradition.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I have family members that have done it,” Ibarra said. “They said they enjoyed it and I want to see for myself. It’s a little terrifying, but also exciting. It’s something in the future I’m looking forward to and can’t wait to do.”