ABILENE — For the second time in three games the Howard Payne Yellow Jackets pushed their opponent to overtime, but the McMurry War Hawks escaped with a 98-96 home victory in American Southwest Conference men's basketball action Thursday night.
The loss was the 11th in a row for the Yellow Jackets, who slipped to 1-12 on the season and 0-4 in conference action. McMurry improved to 6-7 overall and 3-1 in league play.
McMurry reeled off 10 of the first 12 points in overtime to establish a 97-89 edge 2:04 into the five-minute extra session. Jaylan Ballou's trey at 2:37 shaved the deficit to 97-92, Talen Davis added a free throw at 2:15, then Luke Cox buried a three-pointer with 12 seconds left that brought the Yellow Jackets within a point, 97-96.
With 10 seconds left, Cody LeBlanc knocked down the first of two free throws for McMurry. Jayden Modrall grabbed the defensive rebound for HPU after the miss, but Ballou's jumper at the buzzer was off target.
Jace Miguez led the Yellow Jackets with 31 points followed by 18 from Cox, 10 apiece from Ballou and Modrall, eight from Tyrell Thompson, five from Kyle Kildare, four each from Davis and Jacob Smith, and two apiece from Colton Otts, Evan Adkins and Joshua Taylor.
McMurry received a game-high 32 points from Mike Williams, 22 from LeBlanc and 10 from Zacc Carter.
Howard Payne, which trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half, was down 50-42 at halftime. The Yellow Jackets trimmed McMurry's advantage to five points, 54-49, on a jumper by Kildare just 2:15 in the second half. The War Hawks responded with nine points in a row to push the lead to 63-49 with 15:17 remaining.
Down 10 points, 77-67, at the 8:07 mark, the Yellow Jackets reeled off seven straight points to reduce McMurry's lead to a single possession, 77-74. Smith hit a pair of free throws, Cox drained a three-pointer and Miguez knocked down a jumper with 7:01 remaining.
A free throw by Kildare at 5:52 brought HPU within 78-76, then Miguez converted a layup at 4:56 to pull the Yellow Jackets even at 78. At the 3:36 juncture, Miguez sank another jumper as Howard Payne grabbed an 80-78 advantage. Miguez added a pair of free throws with 3:04 left, increasing the gap to 84-80.
McMurry answered with seven of the next eight points to reclaim an 87-85 edge before a layup by Miguez evened the score at 87 with 58 seconds left, where the score remained through the end of regulation.
HPU will attempt to halt its skid at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hardin-Simmons (4-9, 0-4), which is coming off a 67-64 loss to Sul Ross Thursday night.