BELTON — As the preseason No. 9 pick, Mary Hardin-Baylor has fought to put itself in position to grab the No. 2 seed for the conference tournament. It’s a fight that will come down to a winner-take-all, regular-season finale.
Jovana Miles recorded a double-double and UMHB hammered Hardin-Simmons on the boards as the Lady Crusaders retained their share of second place in the league standings with a 94-80 victory Thursday night at the Mayborn Campus Center.
UMHB (16-8, 16-5 American Southwest) won 14 of its last 16 games and can secure the No. 2 seed for next week’s conference tournament with a home win Saturday afternoon over Texas-Dallas (19-5, 16-5), which currently owns the other share of second place.
“We want to finish second because of where we came from. We were supposed to be ninth,” said Miles, a senior post who had 17 points and 14 rebounds. “It’s a big deal that we’re fighting for second place, and I think it’s going to make a big difference for us when we get to the tournament.”
How much difference the seedings will make is unclear because of logjams at almost every spot in the conference standings this season — the ASC’s first without a two-division system in more than a decade.
“How much difference there is between the No. 2 and 3 seed depends on who is sixth and seventh,” UMHB coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor said. “Anybody we face right now, it’s going to be tough. We want to secure second place if at all possible. We were the preseason No. 9. So the higher we can get, the better.
“But really right now, it doesn’t matter. We just need to keep getting better at what we need to improve on.”
Hardin-Simmons (8-16, 8-13) — loser of four of its last five and 11 of its last 13 — needs wins in this final week of the regular season to secure a tournament berth and played accordingly in the first half. The Cowgirls were up 26-24 with 5:45 left in the first half for their last lead of the evening.
The Lady Crusaders built a four-point advantage by halftime and stretched it to double digits in the first three minutes of the second half, eventually leading by as many as 16 points.
“We came out for the second half with more intensity because we knew we had to pull out this win,” Miles said. “It starts with the first five minutes of the half, and that’s when we set the tone.”
Macy Moore scored a team-high 22 points for UMHB, which owned a 51-36 advantage on the boards. Alyssa Dean had 19 points, Jonelle Smith added 13 and Bridjai Chaney chipped in eight points and 12 rebounds off the bench.
Joanna Daniel had 22 points, Becca Chagnon 12 and Kayla Brown 11 for the Cowgirls, who remained tied for eighth place with Concordia Texas.
The Lady Crusaders know going into Saturday’s 1 p.m. regular-season finale against the Comets that the winner secures the No. 2 seed and the loser gets the third spot.
“It seems like it has been kind of a long season, but Coach makes sure our legs are fresh,” Miles said. “We prepare in practice for what the games will be like.”