By Tony Altobelli
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON In a game that went back and forth, it was the Howard Payne Lady Jackets that hit the key buckets at the right time.
A 10-3 HPU run in the final six minutes helped finally put away the Mary Hardin-Baylor Lady Crusaders 58-51 on Tuesday, spoiling the opening of the Mayborn Sports Center on Thursday night.
"The bottom line was they hit some shots down the stretch and we didn't," UMHB coach Margie Williamson said. "Howard Payne is a good team with great depth and they really go after you on defense."
The Lady Jackets' defense, combined with the loss of shooting guard LaTrice Hutchins (ruptured Achilles Tendon) made life difficult for UMHB (11-8, 9-7 in the American Southwest Conference).
"We lost LaTrice right at the end of practice (on Wednesday) so we didn't even get an opportunity to practice or prepare without her," Williamson said. "I'm proud of our girls for making plays and making adjustments. We still have players that can make plays. They just didn't do it tonight."
Lisa Martinez led UMHB with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but no other Lady Cru player had double digits in either category.
Howard Payne (17-4, 14-3) was led by Meia Daniels with 15 points, while Kami Collins, Molly Buker and Rachel Offineer each chipped in 10 points.
Neither team led by more than six points the entire game before the Lady Jackets took over in the final minutes.
A Martinez jumper with 5:58 left tied the game at 48, but two free throws by Collins and a putback by Buker gave HPU a 52-48 lead.
UMHB got as close as three with two minutes left, but after both teams missed shots, Daniels stuck the dagger in the Lady Crusaders' with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 40.2 seconds left.
UMHB will look for its first win in its new pad on Saturday against Sul Ross State, beginning at 1 p.m.
n UMHB men 100, Howard Payne 79 At Belton, the Crusaders' first-ever win at the Mayborn Sports Center, as well as a dominant second half was tarnished with the loss of floor leader Brandon Gatlin, who went down early in the second half with an ankle injury and did not return.
"He stepped on another player's foot and rolled it pretty bad," UMHB coach Ken DeWeese said. "He won't be available on Saturday and we're not sure beyond that. We'll just have to wait and see."
Michael Blaylock picked up the offensive slack with a game-high 23 points as UMHB (13-7, 11-6 ASC) shot an impressive 77 percent from the floor in the second half and 91 percent from the free-throw line.
"I didn't even realize it was that good," DeWeese said, looking at the stats. "We got a lot of points off of our defense and that led to a bunch of good looks at the other end."
After a heartbreaking and controversial overtime loss at Howard Payne (8-12, 8-9) last week, the Crusaders made sure there would be no controversy down the stretch, courtesy of a 62-point second half.
Gatlin contributed 12 points before going down, while Adam Wiese (11 points), Connor Kuykendall (11) and Jimmy Carter (10) each posted solid offensive efforts.
"With Brandon out, we're going to need help from a couple of different people," DeWeese said. "You can't just try and replace him with just one guy, so we're going to need contributions from multiple guys."
UMHB took the lead for good with a 15-4 run midway through the first half, keeping the lead circa double figures the rest of the way.
The Crusaders blew the game wide open with a 25-7 run to open the second half, highlighted with slam dunks by Patrick Oliver, Blaylock and Wiese.
UMHB returns to action on Saturday against Sul Ross State, beginning at 3 p.m.
Contact Tony Altobelli at email@example.com