Senior Hope Hohertz scored in the paint and was fouled on an inbounds play with eight-tenths of a second left as the No. 8 Howard Payne Lady Jackets escaped Thursday’s home opener with a 51-49 victory over the Ozarks Lady Eagles.
The Lady Jackets (5-0, 3-0) rallied for the second straight game as they erased a five-point deficit with 6:44 remaining and trailed by one point, 49-48, with 19 seconds left after two free throws by Ozarks’ (1-5, 0-3) Alison Villines.
Howard Payne missed its initial game-winner as Brittany Zamora’s three-point attempt bounced off the rim, then off the foot of an Ozarks player before rolling out of bounds with 1.4 seconds left.
Zamora then delivered the pass in the paint to Hohertz, who went straight up and banked her shot off the glass, while drawing a foul from Lindsey Louks.
“We execute this play every day and it’s one of the main plays we rely on. Coach just told us to set good screens, execute it and finish,” Hohertz said. “Brittany saw me coming open for a wide open shot and I just made it.”
Hohertz tacked on the free throw to give her a team-high 13 points, and Ozarks was unable to get the ball past half-court before the buzzer sounded.
Howard Payne overcame a horrendous night shooting as the Lady Jackets converted just 26 percent of their field goals (19-of-73) and only 22 percent (9-of-41) after halftime.
Katy Sarem was the only other Lady Jacket in double figures with 11 points, trailed by eight each from Elaine Hobbs and Roshonda Gayden, three points apiece from Clarissa Krum, Tiffany Warner and Zamora and two points from Sarah Pfiester.
Defensively, the Lady Jackets limited Ozarks to 31 percent shooting (15-of-48), forced 20 turnovers and owned a 54-40 edge in rebounds, with 28 coming off the offensive end.
Gayden led the Lady Jackets with 13 boards, trailed by 10 from Hobbs and eight rebounds each from Hohertz and Krum.
“We took some pretty good shots, but we were colder than it was outside tonight,” said HPU head coach Josh Prock. “But if you defend and rebound, no matter how bad you shoot or how bad you play on offense, you have a chance to win every game.”
For Ozarks, Sabrina Goodard tallied a game-high 21 points and nine boards, while April Young chipped in 15 points.
Pfiester’s bucket with 11:51 remaining gave Howard Payne a 37-35 edge, but the Lady Jackets went scoreless over the next 5:07 as Ozarks rallied for a 42-37 lead.
Hobbs drained a pair of free throws to end the scoring drought and cut the deficit to 42-39, then Zamora drilled a three-pointer to even the score at 42-all with 5:31 to go. Sarem sank a trey with 4:57 left to stake HPU to a 45-42 lead, but Ozarks tallied the next four points to regain a 46-45 edge with 3:05 remaining.
Sarem again came through with a three-pointer to push Howard Payne back in front, 48-46, with 2:32 left. Young hit a free throw for Ozarks with 1:59 left, then Villines hit the go-ahead shots from the charity stripe that set the stage for the wild finale.
Howard Payne also suffered through a scoring drought of 8:39 in the first half, which turned a 17-12 lead into a 22-17 deficit.
Trailing 27-20 with 2:26 left before halftime, the Lady Jackets scratched out the last seven points of the half to pull even at intermission.
Hohertz, who scored HPU’s first eight points, started the run with a coast-to-coast layup, followed by a three-pointer from Warner and Gayden’s layup with two seconds left following a steal.
The Lady Jackets’ margin of victory has decreased in each outing so far, with Thursday’s win being the closest call. Howard Payne downed LeTourneau, 58-51, this past Saturday and stormed back from 12 down to knock off East Texas Baptist, 69-63, on Monday.
Howard Payne will play its fourth game in seven days Saturday when No. 21 UT-Dallas (5-1, 3-0) — which the Lady Jackets defeated 69-56 on opening weekend — visits the Brownwood Coliseum at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We obviously have a lot of things to work on and the girls understand we have not played very well, but the good part about it is that we walked away with the win,” Prock said.