After being pushed around for most of the second half of their game against South Plains, the Howard College women's basketball team decided it was time to start pushing back.
The Hawks shook off a recent history of second half collapses and halted a three-game losing streak at the same time, dominating the final minutes en route to a 57-50 victory over the Lady Texans at Dorothy Garrett Coliseum Thursday evening.
The victory did little to help Howard's faint hopes for a regional tournament bid, but considering the team's struggles in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play this season, it was cause for celebration, nonetheless.
“This felt good,” said Howard point guard Kali Jerrel, who led all scorers with 19 points.”We just came together there at the end … I'm just glad we got the win.”
The Hawks (17-10 overall, 3-8 in conference) dominated much of the first half, leading by as much as 15 points with 8:26 remaining before intermission, before South Plains began rallying. The Lady Texans cut their deficit to eight points at halftime, then nibbled even further away at Howard's lead in the second half.
SPC (8-19, 5-6) twice cut the lead to two points, and considering Howard's recent history of second-half woes, there was every reason for HC fans to be nervous as the game entered its final two minutes.
The Hawks, however, had different ideas.
After Stephanie Moore hit two free throws to cut Howard's lead to 49-47 with 3:08 remaining, Tori Tucker, who ended the game with 12 points, came up huge for the Hawks.
First, she hit a jumper at the 2:20 mark to put Howard back up by four. Then, after a South Plains free throw brought the Lady Texans back to within three, Tucker drove the lane with a minute left for a basket that gave the Hawks a crucial five-point advantage.
“That was a huge basket right there,” HC Coach Earl Diddle said. “Tori took it right past her defender and had a great finish. That gave us a little bit of a cushion.”
Forced to foul, South Plains sent Jarrel to the free throw line twice in the final seconds, and the sophomore from Oklahoma City converted all four of her chances to seal the victory.
“We pushed back,” Diddle said. “Give South Plains credit; they came back in the second half. But I thought we finished strong. We played well down the wire and I've got to give the kids credit for the adjustments they made and way they played defense.”
Howard returns to action Monday at Hobb, N.M. vs. New Mexico Junior College. Game time is 5:45 p.m.
SOUTH PLAINS (50) — Ashley Roberts 5 2-2 16; Avril Matthews 0 1-2 1; Raely Parada 3 1-2 8; Moneeka Carter 3 0-0 6; Sydney Hearn 2 0-0 4; Stephanie Moore 5 5-6 15; totals 18 9-12 50.
HOWARD (57) — Porsche Young 2 0-1 4; Kali Jerrel, 7 4-4 19; Tori Tucker 6 0-0 12; Zeslie Johnson 4 0-0 8; Kelli Merrick 1 2-2 4; Marion Lemonnier 0 2-2 2; Carolyn Taylor 3 0-0 6; Brushea Daniels 1 0-0 2; totals 24 8-10 57.
Halftime — Howard 29, South Plains 21; Three point goals — South Plains 5 (Roberts 4, Parada), Howard 1 (Jerrel); Fouled out — none.