Hawk women win play-in game for postseason berth

ODESSA — The Howard College women’s basketball team thought it was in the Region V Tournament after beating Frank Phillips to end the regular season.They had to play one more game, however.The Hawks beat New Mexico Junior College 66-61 Monday in Odessa in a game that determined which team will go to the Region V Tournament, which begins Thursday. “I’m really proud of the way we came out,” Howard head coach Earl Diddle said. “We were very spirited. We were ready to play and I give all the credit to the girls because that’s a tough position to be in. Because when you think you have something, you have it taken away, that’s tough to rebound from.” After the win over Frank Phillips Thursday, the Hawks were tied with New Mexico Junior College for the fourth and final spot for a berth in the postseason out of Region 5-West. Both teams were 6-6 in conference play.The Hawks thought they clinched because of the power points system, which allots teams certain points for beating certain opponents in the conference. The Lady Thunderbirds, however, also thought they had more points than Howard.The matter had to be appealed to all the presidents of each school in the conference, leading to a late decision to have a play-in game in Odessa for that fourth and final spot. Diddle and the Hawks were not in favor of playing another game to get in the Region V Tournament. Diddle said a lot of credit should go to athletic director Britt Smith and president Cheryl Sparks for trying to challenge that decision, but the Hawks had to abide by it and in the end, it worked in their favor.The standout sophomore led the team in scoring with 19 points. Kali Jerrell had 17 in the win. New Mexico and Howard split games this season. In this game, Diddle said from tip-off, Howard had upper hand and the support was there, too. He said Hawks fans were vocal in Monday’s game. Now the Hawks prepare for Grayson Community College at 7 p.m. on the first day of the Region V Tournament Thursday at the Rip Griffin Center on Lubbock Christian University’s campus in Lubbock.In what has been a whirlwind of decisions since the regular season finale, Diddle is proud his team came up big when it did.“I think it really speaks well of the character of our team going through what they went through on Friday,” he said. “Everyone had us in the tournament Thursday after the game. ... By Saturday, it went to the presidents challenging the decision that was made on a play-in and then on Sunday, explaining what happened.”