BELTON, Texas- Late game heroics from forwards Hannah Eggleston and Ashley Faux were not enough to overcome a fourth quarter deficit, as the UMHB women’s basketball team fell to Howard Payne, 77-75, on Saturday afternoon.
“We got to be better at closing out games,” said UMHB head coach Mark Morefield postgame.
With Saturday’s contest being the regular season finale, UMHB finishes with a 11-8 overall record and 7-7 mark in conference play. The Cru is the West division’s No. 4 seed at the ASC tournament, which begins this coming Wednesday, and faces the No. 1 seed in the West, Hardin-Simmons, at 5:00 p.m. in Abilene.
Eggleston played perhaps her best game in a UMHB uniform, scoring 31 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Both were team-highs as she had six of the Cru’s first nine points.
“It definitely gives me some confidence,” said Eggleston. “I felt like I was comfortable again, and it’s taken me a little while to comfortable at the collegiate level. I was playing the game that I love with people that I love, it’s that simple.”
“She’s kind of taken over in that go-to role,” said Morefield of Eggleston’s performance.
Howard Payne ran a full court press for nearly the entire game, though it did not phase UMHB, as the Cru made smart passes and entered with a well-thought out game plan.
An attitude of determination to finish the regular season on a four-game winning streak was evident from the opening tip-off, as UMHB guard Olivia Champion corralled the tip and got it to Eggleston, who drove past a HPU defender and got the layup to fall for UMHB’s first points of the contest. The Cru led 7-2 before the Lady Jackets countered with multiple three-pointers.
Holding a narrow 19-15 advantage at the end of the first, UMHB went on a 10-1 scoring run to open the second period.
Faux had the play of the second quarter for the Cru, as the freshman got the ball into the frontcourt quickly on a fastbreak before she pulled the ball back and then sliced past multiple HPU defenders, getting a layup to fall with 44.1 seconds left. She was also fouled and made the additional attempt from the free throw line to make the score 38-28. Those were the last points of the first half, as Eggleston had 16 points in the first 20 minutes of play.
Coming out of halftime, UMHB kept its foot on the pedal, forcing HPU to take off balance shots while maintaining a strong presence in the post. But the Lady Jackets managed to erase the Cru’s lead on a 8-0 run to close out the third quarter. That attack was spearheaded by HPU’s elusive 5’2 guard, Salina Ali, who finished the game with 19 points.
HPU carried that momentum into the fourth, opening the final period on a 6-0 run as UMHB seemed to have a mental lapse. The Cru turned the ball over twice, and gave up back-to-back shots in transition in the first two minutes. By the time UMHB called a timeout, the Cru trailed by eight, 65-57, with just 4:51 left.
At the two minute mark, HPU led 69-64, but Faux would step up with exactly one minute left, swishing a three to make it a one possession game, 72-69, as the entire UMHB bench leapt to its feet. Faux knocked down another critical three seconds later, which set up Eggleston’s biggest shot of the game.
With the Cru trailing by three, 75-72, the Magnolia, Texas native was clutch, drilling a three from the top of the arc to tie the score. The roar from the crowd was defeaning, as the thought of overtime crossed the minds of many in the arena.
“I just kept thinking, ‘We didn’t come this far to come this far,'” said Eggleston. “It was senior night, I had to step up for my seniors.”
Extra time would not be needed, however, as HPU’s Amanda Turpin drove to the lane and was fouled by Faux. The guard would make both free throws and Faux’s 70-plus foot prayer fell short as time expired.
Though she did foul Turpin, and was the one to take the Cru’s last-second desperation shot, Faux stepped up when her number was called, and had 16 points, shooting four-of-seven from three-point range.
It is also important to note that had Faux not fouled Turpin, the layup would have gone in, and the Cru would have been in the same position. On top of that, in a game such as this one, one or two plays did not decide the outcome. It was the lack of defense at times that plagued the Cru in an otherwise solid effort.
“There’s a difference between being the winner and doing the winning,” said Morefield. “What I mean by that is, Hannah [Holt], Kendall [Rollins], Alecia [Blackwell] did a lot of the winning [for us last season]. The other girls were winners, but it is different when you’re the cog in the wheel and know you got to be the one taking those shots. It’s now put on your shoulders to be the one. That’s a tough thing to learn how to do.”