The defending national champions just needed a little bit of daylight.
In Monday’s WJCAC opener, South Plains looked like the better team for most of the game, but once Howard College found an opportunity to steal a win, the Hawks didn’t waste it.
“We feel like we just got outplayed for three-fourths of the game,” Howard head coach Mark Adams said. “But the last eight minutes, we showed some aggression. We were much more physical with South Plains and we hit some big shots.”
Maybe the biggest of those shots was a Shavon Coleman 3-pointer with 1:41 left in the game to give Howard a 61-59 lead — its first lead since 34-31 at the beginning of the second half.
The Hawks went on to open WJCAC play with a 73-63 win over South Plains, getting their 13th victory of the season in the process.
Carlos Emory had 19 points, Johnnie Lacy was big with 14 and Corey Stern had 12.
The Texans had Howard on the ropes most of the second half. Emory gave Howard that 34-31 lead when he caught the ball thrown from across the court to hit a 3-pointer right before halftime.
That didn’t rattle South Plains, though. The Texans’ Greg Gainey was huge in the second half. He had four points at halftime, but bounced back for 17 in the second half, sparking the South Plains run.
But South Plains couldn’t put the game away and Howard hung around.
Coleman’s big shot was only his second of the game. He hit a 3-pointer earlier in the second half. Otherwise, he was 2 of 10 from the field.
“I saw how I missed a three before that and my coach got in my head and told me just take the next shot and knock the big shot down,” Coleman said. “Soon as I got the next chance, I had confidence, let it go and it went in.”
Adams has no qualms about admitting South Plains was the better team Monday night. He said the Texans deserve a lot of credit for their physical level of play, which was another big reason why they sustained their lead in the second half.
Adams said the Hawks can’t keep playing from behind and expecting to win and taking care of business at home is key in this conference, too.
So the head coach is glad his players got a win when they needed it.
“I just think right now, everyone’s probably going to win their home games,” Adams said. “It’s those teams that can sneak into a gym and come out with a win that’s probably going to come out on top.”
Howard College 73, South Plains 63
South Plains 31 32 - 63
Howard 34 39 – 73
Howard College — Carlos Emory 19, Johnnie Lacy 14, Corey Stern 12, Jerry Dixon 9, Joe Bright 7, Shavon Coleman 6, Jermaine Winfield 4, Tramel White 2
South Plains — Greg Gainey 21, Derrell Edwards 15, Kenny Brown 10, Deshaunt Walker 8, Malcolm Miller 6, Brandon Thompson 3
3-point field goals — Howard 5 (Coleman 2, Lacy 1, Emory 1, Dixon 1), South Plains 4 (Edwards 3, Thompson 1)
Free throws — Howard 22-28, South Plains 9-17
Turnovers: Howard16, South Plains 20
Fouls: Howard 15, South Plains 19
Records: Howard (13-2, 1-0 in WJCAC play), South Plains (11-5, 0-1)
Next game: Howard vs. New Mexico Junior College at 7:45 PM (MST) Thursday in Hobbs, NM