By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON - His ankle still bothered him Saturday, but Sterling Phillips was feeling something else. Mary Hardin-Baylor's senior guard felt warm - hot-streak warm.
Phillips scored 19 of his 23 points in the second half, and the Cru men's basketball team avenged its only loss of the season with a 90-87 win over rival McMurry on Saturday in its next-to-last regular season game at the Mayborn Campus Center this season.
"It's been a long time, it really has. It feels good because I've known I've always had it in me - I've been here for four years," Phillips said of his zone-like performance. "I'm happy, first of all that we won, but second of all, I'm happy to have this feeling because it's not a good feeling when you're struggling."
Phillips averaged less than nine points a game this season and was coming off the bench instead of starting, but he hit 7-of-10 from the field in the second half - 9-of-13 in the game - and provided the offensive spark the Cru (22-1, 18-1 American Southwest Conference) needed when they lost starting guard James Allen to an ankle injury early in the game. Allen is expected to play against Schreiner on Thursday.
Allen replaced Phillips in the starting lineup earlier this season when Phillips suffered the ankle injury that's still bothersome.
"When I came in the first time and then I came out, (Cru assistant coach) Jimmy (Smith) told me, 'You've got to battle through it because you're not helping us out there.' The next time I got in, I really tried to make an emphasis on being aggressive and really trying to help my team, whether it's offensively or defensively," Phillips said. "I started being more aggressive on the defensive end and it carried over to the next half. After I hit one shot, I hit another one and it started to snowball after that."
Kitrick Bell also scored 23 to help Phillips lead the Cru and Miller finished with 18. Jones and Bryce Hill each scored 15 to lead the War Hawks.
The War Hawks (15-8, 11-8) outscored UMHB 25-8 in an eight-minute stretch that helped McMurry overcome a seven-point deficit and take a 10-point lead on Jaden Isler's 3-pointer with 6:20 left in the first half. The run stalled with the first of two technicals fouls called against the War Hawks.
Up 33-23, McMurry's Steven Jones was whistled for an offensive foul and then a technical for elbowing UMHB's Damian Davis. The Cru used the infraction as a spark, scoring seven straight points to trail just 33-31 on Davis' 3-pointer with 2:36 left and 40-35 at halftime.
McMurry coach J.D. Isler was called for a technical eight minutes into the second half for arguing a call and Marlon Miller hit the pair of free throws for UMHB's first lead of the second half - the first of nine lead changes.
Miller gave the Cru, who have already clinch the ASC West regular season title, an 81-80 lead on a jumper with 1:22 left and the Cru hit 9-of-10 from the free-throw line, sealing their sixth straight win since the 75-71 loss to the War Harks on Jan. 21 in Abilene that ruined UMHB's 16-0 start.
"I don't want to make a point that it's life or death, but I want to make sure they know these games are important," Cru coach Ken DeWeese said.
McMurry women 72, Mary Hardin-Baylor 60 - At Belton, the War Hawks overcame an eight-point deficit in the first half and outscored UMHB 38-29 in the second half to snap the Cru's only winning streak of the season at two.
Rikeita Thomas scored 18 of her 19 points in the first half, leading McMurry (16-7, 14-5 American Southwest Conference) to a 34-31 halftime lead.
UMHB forwards Gabby Guzman and Jovana Miles each scored nine in the first half, helping the Cru (4-15, 5-18) build a 22-14 lead on a Brittany Zamora layup 10:17 before the intermission. Thomas then sparked an 8-0 McMurry run that gave the War Hawks a 24-22 lead en route to their 3-point halftime lead.
Lauren Reece scored four in the Cru's second half-opening, 6-0 run for a 37-34 lead with 17:39 left, but the War Hawks used a 22-7 run to take a 56-44 lead after back-to-back 3s by Jamie Wilson. The Cru, who had won their previous two games, never got any closer than 10 the rest of the way.
Zamora led UMHB with 15 points while Guzman and Reece each added 11 and Miranda Shorter chipped in 10 points.