Lady Jackets lock up No. 3 seed, 80-73 over Concordia

Derrick Stuckly
Anastasia Willis (25) goes up for two of her 11 points during the Howard Payne Lady Jackets' 80-73 win over Concordia Saturday. [Photo by Derrick Stuckly]

With their third win in the last four outings — all against teams that defeated them earlier in the season — the Howard Payne Lady Jackets locked up the third seed from the West Division for the American Southwest Conference women's basketball tournament.

The Lady Jackets upended Concordia, 80-73, Saturday afternoon at the Brownwood Coliseum, avenging an 86-71 road loss on Feb. 6.

The victory earned Howard Payne (11-14, 7-9) a first-round showdown with East Division No. 2 seed East Texas Baptist (19-6, 13-3) at noon Thursday. With the loss, Concordia (9-16, 6-10), which slipped to the fourth seed, must face tournament host and East Division champion UT-Dallas (21-4, 15-1) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Howard Payne converted 30 of 46 free throws in Saturday's regular season finale as Concordia committed 34 fouls, and three players fouled out. The Lady Jackets owned an 18-point edge at the charity stripe as Concordia drained 12 of 20 free throw attempts.

The Lady Tornadoes remained closed thanks to sinking 13 of 30 three-pointers, while the Lady Jackets knocked down 6 of 20 from beyond the arc.

Overall, HPU shot 42 percent (22 of 53) from the floor compared to 37 percent for Concordia (24 of 65). The Lady Jackets also owned a 46-35 edge in rebounds.

ASC West Player of the Week Bria Neal led the way for the Lady Jackets with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds. Salina Ali and Anastasia Willis contributed 11 points apiece while Julissa Ibarra and Lily Janek each added 10. Also scoring were Chelsey Harris with nine points, Delaney Ingram with six, Catlyn Ward with five and Mallory Garcia knocked down a three-pointer.

Concordia received 19 points from Kaycie Dunkerley, 12 from Madi Maxwell and 11 points from Natalie Velardez.

A see-saw first period saw the Lady Jackets grab a 25-24 edge at the end of the quarter on a three-pointer by Ibarra. Knotted at 34 with 3:33 left before the half, Howard Payne grabbed control of the contest with a 7-2 run to end the second period. Four free throws came from Ali, Harris sank another and Willis added a bucket with 12 seconds to go for a 41-36 halftime lead.

In the third period, the Lady Jackets stretched the advantage to double figures, 50-39, on a three-pointer by Janek at the 7:16 mark, which capped a string of six straight points. Howard Payne carried a nine-point edge, 60-51, into the fourth period.

There, the Lady Jackets maintained at least a six-point margin throughout the quarter with the cushion again reaching 11 points, 78-67, with 54 seconds left following a pair of free throws from Neal.

In the ASC tournament, Howard Payne will attempt to avenge a 63-49 road loss to East Texas Baptist that occurred Jan. 16. With a win Thursday, the Lady Jackets would face either West No. 1 seed Mary Hardin-Baylor (21-4, 14-2) or East No. 4 seed Belhaven (14-11, 7-9) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Friday. The ASC championship game is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday.