Howard College womenâ€™s basketball head coach Earl Diddle clearly was in a better mood by the end of Thursday night than he was before the regular season finale against Frank Phillips College started.
At one point, all he knew was New Mexico Junior College and Odessa College needed to lose and his team had to win if the Hawks wanted to return to the Region V Tournament. They could only control the latter.
However, with all the odds in the world against them, the Hawks took care of business and so did New Mexico and Odessaâ€™s opponents. By the end of the night, Diddle was a happy man.
â€śIâ€™m excited. Iâ€™m very excited, Iâ€™m happy for our team,â€ť Diddle said following a 73-67 win over Frank Phillips at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum, which helped the Hawks clinch the fourth and final spot for the Region V Tournament out of Region 5-West. â€śIâ€™m happy to go up there with our menâ€™s team. Weâ€™ve always played well in the regional tournament. I know our kids are excited, so weâ€™ll go up there and represent Hawk basketball to the fullest.â€ť
Frank Phillips did everything it could to end Howardâ€™s season early.
After a closely contested first half â€” Howard was up 34-31 on a team that hasnâ€™t won a conference game all year â€” the Hawks took control.
They opened the second half on a 25-10 run for a 59-41 lead, sparked by Kali Jerrell, Zeslie Johnson and Tasha Tubbs, among others. Meanwhile, the Plainsmen were losing the rebound battle, turning the ball over and missing shots. The energy they had in the first half went missing in the second.
That didnâ€™t last long, though.
Frank Phillips battled back and made the Hawks sweat toward the end of the game. A score from FPCâ€™s Shardena Hudson made it 64-57 Howard with 2:48 left. Consecutive scores from Frank Phillipsâ€™ LaChrista Nash and Erica Jones made it 67-63 with 32 seconds left. After two free throws from Jerrell, Amy Elliot hit a 3-pointer and suddenly, Frank Phillips was down 69-66 with 23 seconds left.
However, the Plainsmen were forced to keep fouling, sending Jerrell to the line and she didnâ€™t miss. It helped stave off the comeback.
â€śThey played pretty well,â€ť said Tubbs, who had 12 points in her last game as a Hawk at Dorothy Garrett. â€śWe have to come out and play harder every game. If we wouldâ€™ve lost, we wouldnâ€™t have had anything. But we fought pretty hard and we won the game.â€ť
Diddle wasnâ€™t surprised by Frank Phillipsâ€™ feistiness, either. Itâ€™s a team without a conference win this season, but that doesnâ€™t mean the Plainsmen lack talent.
â€śItâ€™s a tough game. It was tough for us up there. We played extremely well up there. I thought we were a little sluggish here. I have to give Frank Phillips all the credit in the world.â€ť
With the Hawksâ€™ season extended, Grayson County Community College awaits in the first round of the Region V Tournament. This is the Hawksâ€™ return to the postseason after missing it last season.
HOWARD COLLEGE 73, FRANK PHILLIPS COLLEGE 67
Frank Phillips 31 36 - 67
Howard 34 39 â€“ 73
Howard â€” Porsche Young 8, Kali Jerrell 18, Sarah Johnson 2, Leona Allen 6, Zeslie Johnson 12, Taniqua Ards 12, Tasha Tubbs 12, Brushea Daniels 3
Frank Phillips â€” Nancy Castillo 12, Shardena Hudson 9, Tarah Turner 11, Erica Jones 11, Kinjita Kelly 5, LaChrista Nash 19, Amy Elliot 6, Courtney Turner 5
3-point field goals â€” Howard 5 (Young 2, Jerrell 1, Tubbs 2), Frank Phillips 9 (Castillo 2, Hudson 1, Jones 1, Kelly 1, Nash 1, Elliot 2, C. Turner 1)
Free throws â€” Howard 10-14, Frank Phillips 6-9
Total fouls â€” Howard 10, Frank Phillips 14
Records â€” Howard (21-9, 6-6), Frank Phillips (4-26, 0-12)
Next game: Howard vs. Grayson County Community College at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock
The Howard men needed Odessa to upset Midland for a share of the conference title, but the Hawks werenâ€™t too concerned with that heading into Thursdayâ€™s game against Frank Phillips.
Head coach Mark Adams is just glad his Hawks have the second seed, a 12-2 conference record and everyone healthy.
â€śThis is one of those games that didnâ€™t maybe mean a whole lot to us,â€ť he said following an emphatic 69-51 win over the Plainsmen. â€śWeâ€™re proud of that second seed. It was just kind of, honor the sophomores and defend our homecourt.â€ť
Considering the type of season the Hawks have had, theyâ€™re in a good place right now.
The beginning of the season was riddled with the suspensions of three incoming freshmen. Then more suspensions occurred, leaving the Hawks even more short-handed midway through the season. Injuries and depth have been somewhat of a concern, too.
But since an upset on the road against Midland, the Hawks have found their stride and head into the Region V Tournament with some momentum.
On sophomore night, no one was bigger than Joe Bright and Carlos Emory. Emory scored 17 against Frank Phillips and Bright had 14.
Those two were on last yearâ€™s national championship team and Adams said theyâ€™ve been the backbone for this yearâ€™s team.
â€śIt has been a year of adversity,â€ť he said. â€śThis team has shown a tremendous amount of toughness and character to not let this be a huge distraction for us. We have a lot of ugly wins, but thatâ€™s what we do. We grind it out. Thatâ€™s our personality and that seems to kind of be the label that weâ€™ve taken on.â€ť
Grayson is the No. 3 seed in Region 5-North, setting up a matchup between the two squads to open the Region V Tournament in Lubbock.
HOWARD COLLEGE 69, FRANK PHILLIPS COLLEGE 51
Frank Phillips 19 32 â€“ 51
Howard 31 38 â€“ 69
Howard â€” Jerry Dixon 9, Jason Walker 2, Tramel White 3, Shavon Coleman 12, Corey Stern 4, Jermaine Winfield 8, Carlos Emory 17, Joe Bright 14
Frank Phillips â€” Jerrod Brown 3, Kaleb Knight 2, James Boonstoppel 3, Tim Johnson 5, Jonathan Pittman 9, Trevor Niles 9, Kyler Nelson 6, Marlon Ford 11, Mike Evans 3
3-point field goals â€” Howard 6 (Dixon 3, Emory 1, Bright 2), Frank Phillips 4 (Johnson 1, Boonstoppel 1, Nelson 2)
Free throws â€” Howard 15-22, Frank Phillips 4-15
Total fouls â€” Howard 15, Frank Phillips 14
Records â€” Howard (22-6, 12-2), Frank Phillips (11-19, 3-11)
Next game: Howard vs. Grayson in the Rip Griffin Center in Lubbock