BELTON — As has been the case most of this season, it was some younger players who provided the bulk of the scoring for Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday afternoon. This contest, though, will be remembered more for two reasons.
It put a cap on the Lady Crusaders’ perfect home record and was the final home game for a pair of senior leaders.
Sophomores Kendall Rollins and Hannah Holt scored 25 points apiece for UMHB, which had no trouble disposing of Hardin-Simmons in a 79-57 victory that finished the Lady Crusaders’ first unblemished home record since they moved into Mayborn Campus Center in 2005.
After dropping only one home game last year, UMHB (19-3, 12-2 American Southwest Conference) ran the table at Mayborn Campus Center this season — a 12-0 mark that shows how far the Lady Crusaders have come in three seasons under Mark Morefield.
“For these returners to lose only one home game in two years, that speaks volumes about the environment we’ve been able to establish here,” Morefield said.
Among those returners are senior point guard Meghan Turner and senior forward Haven Neal, a pair of starters and four-year lettermen. Turner dished out eight assists and grabbed two steals to go with her three points, and Neal had eight points and nine rebounds in their final home game.
“That’s a good way to finish out. It didn’t really hit me until after the game that it was my last time to play on that court,” said Turner, who averages 28 minutes per game. “It was a good four years, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Neal was more focused on what was still to come — the conference tournament and possibly a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It was a little bit emotional being on the home court for the last time, but we have more games to play. We’re not done yet, so that’s good,” said Neal, who averages 18 minutes.
UMHB found its rhythm in the second quarter to cap a first half that was littered with ugly stretches by both teams.
A 7-0 surge to close the opening quarter broke a tie and put the Lady Crusaders up 17-10. They stretched the gap to double digits on Rollins’ 3-pointer 1½ minutes into the second and were up 24-16 with 5 minutes left in the half when they took control.
Holt’s bucket on a cut to the basket was followed by another Rollins 3 to get the margin back to double digits. Holt scored six of UMHB’s final eight points of the half on a driving basket and two layups off steals as the Lady Crusaders took a 38-22 lead into the break.
UMHB shot 47 percent from the field in the second quarter after a 33-percent effort over the first 10 minutes. The Cowgirls (4-17, 2-12) shot only 30 percent before halftime and were further hampered by 12 turnovers.
The Lady Crusaders continued to heat up in the third and widened the gap to 22 points on Holt’s layup in transition midway through the quarter.
Hardin-Simmons never got closer than 18 again, and UMHB’s lead grew to as many as 28 points on Rollins’ baseline runner with 3:27 remaining in the game.
Danie Mabry has 18 points, Taylor Gaffney 14, and Addison Garcia 12 for the Cowgirls, who finished with 20 turnovers and lost for the eighth straight time.
Sophomore Alicia Blackwell added 10 points for UMHB, which clinched one of the ASC West Division’s top-two seeds for the conference tournament. The Lady Crusaders finish the regular season with three consecutive road games, starting next Saturday at Concordia Texas.
“We talked about not having a letdown in this game,” Morefield said. “When you play a game that on paper you’re supposed to win, you have to be able to keep your focus. I thought we did that pretty well. We kept our focus for 40 minutes on what we wanted to do.”