Kelli Merrick (23) grabs a rebound during Howard Collegeâ€™s game vs. South Plains Monday evening. (HERALD photo/Steve Reagan)
LEVELLAND â€” Howard College Men's Basketball Coach Mark Adams isn't much one for moral victories, but even he saw a little bit of a silver lining in the Hawks' nail-bitingly close loss to top-ranked South Plains Monday night.
The Hawks pushed South Plains down to the wire â€” almost to the last second, actually â€” before finally dropping a 65-62 decision in Western Junior College Athletic Conference action.
Howard (14-5 overall, 3-2 in conference play) battled severe foul trouble most of the second half, yet were able to play even with the Texans. Neither team dominated the final 20 minutes â€” South Plains never led by more than seven points, while the Hawks' biggest advantage came when Calvin Godfrey nailed a three-pointer to make the score 51-48 with 7:48 remaining.
But it was at the foul line that the game was decided â€” South Plains was 16 for 21, while the Hawks sank less than half (5 of 12) of their free throws.
â€śFree throws were a huge factor in the outcome of the game. That was pretty much the difference, Adams said. â€śWhen you shoot under 50 percent from the free throw line in a game as big as this, you're not going to win.â€ť
Shavon Coleman's three-pointer with 3:35 remaining tied the game at 56-all, but South Plains never trailed again â€” although the Texans (20-0, 5-0) weren't able to finally ice matters until Marshall Henderson sank a pair of free thows with 2.3 seconds remaining.
Coleman led Howard with 15 points â€” 12 of which came on three-point shots â€” while Godfrey and Jacob Thomas each scored 14 points.
Despite disappointed in the final result, Adams did see some things he liked in his team's performance.
â€śI thought there were several areas we improved in,â€ť Adams said. â€śI was disappointed with our play in the final five minutes â€” we didn't execute that well â€” but the guys played hard and we had a chance to win the game at the end.â€ť
Howard returns to action Thursday when the Hawks host New Mexico Junior College at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum. Both teams are tied with identical 3-2 WJCAC records.
â€śNew Mexico is one of the best teams in the conference right now,â€ť Adams said. â€śIt will be a huge game for us. We are going to have to protect the home court if we're going to have a chance to win this conference.â€ť
Game time is 7:45 p.m. Thursday.
South Plains 43
Howard College 36
In a defensive battle, the South Plains Lady Texans found a few more shots than Howard College Monday night.
South Plains canned only 30 percent of its shots from the field, but that was enough to claim a 43-36 victory over the Hawks Monday.
As tough as it was for the Lady Texans to find a field goal, it was even worse for Howard, which made less than 20 percent of its field goal attempts in the game.
â€śI was really disappointed in our shot selection,â€ť HC Coach Earl Diddle said. â€śComing off our loss to Odessa (Friday), I thought we hung in there and were in a position to take the lead, but we just couldn't get any momentum going offensively or defensively.â€ť
Porche Young and Marion Lemonnier each scored seven points to lead Howard, which fell to 14-7 overall and 1-3 in WJCAC action with the loss. Stephanie Moore scored 16 points to pace South Plains, which improved to 5-16 and 2-3 with the victory.
Things won't get any easier for the Hawks in their next game â€” a Thursday battle with conference leader New Mexico Junior College at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum.
â€śIt will all come down to concentration and execution,â€ť Diddle said. â€śWe've got a lot of young players on this team and their execution isn't what it should be right now.â€ť
Game time Thursday is 5:45 p.m.
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