BELTON — Mary Hardin-Baylor got a bounce-back victory in the women’s game, the Crusaders followed by picking up steam as they continued to roll, and a 2-for-2 showing in an American Southwest Conference doubleheader Thursday night at Mayborn Campus Center was exactly what UMHB’s programs were looking for to kick-start the calendar year.
UMHB (10-1, 2-0) clicked on all cylinders from the opening tip and needed all of its large first-half lead to hold off Ozarks (4-7, 0-2) in an 84-80 victory that stretched the Crusaders’ win streak to nine games heading into Saturday’s home showdown with defending ASC champion Texas-Dallas.
A first half that featured eight points from Logan Hicks in the opening 4½ minutes, Hicks’ lob to Pat Everett for an alley-oop dunk and some hot long-range shooting from up and down the UMHB roster saw the Crusaders lead by as many 23 points before settling for a 43-28 halftime lead.
The Eagles, who never led, got within five with 2 minutes left in a more competitive second half before Casey Armour’s three-point play with 35 seconds to go all but sealed it for UMHB.
Sam Moore was 5-of-6 from beyond the arc and scored 23 points for the Crusaders, who were 12-of-24 from 3-point range and shot 47 percent (31-of-66) overall. Hicks finished with 13 points, Armour had 13 and Kendal Little added 10.
Jacobe Davis scored a game-high 24 points for Ozarks, which got 12 from Cordy Winston and 11 each from Bryson Johnson and Darnel Renelique.
With senior guard and second-leading scorer Kendall Rollins expected to miss at least another two weeks while rehabbing an ankle injury, the Lady Crusaders (9-2, 2-0) are learning to win in different ways. On Thursday night, that meant getting the ball inside to sophomores Allaira Jones and Kandyce Shepard and freshman Trinity Paeu.
Jones scored a game-high 14 points, and Paeu and Shepard added 12 and 11, respectively, off the bench to help UMHB put away Ozarks 79-59 and rebound from Monday’s loss at Austin College that snapped the Lady Crusaders’ eight-game win streak.
“Monday kind of hit us by surprise, and we used today to show that we’re OK and we can bounce back,” said Jones, a Gatesville product who scored nine of her points in the first quarter. “We’re missing one of our key players. As a team, we know we have to pick it up and help somewhere to make up for not having her.”
Jones’ first-quarter output helped UMHB build an 11-point lead early in the second before the Lady Eagles, who shot only 15 percent (2-of-13) in the first period, found some rhythm and put together a 13-6 run to get within four points. It was Paeu’s six points in the final 1½ minutes of the half that stemmed the Ozarks surge and gave the Lady Crusaders a 36-28 advantage heading into the break.
“Those three are hard to stop, and we may have to win like that at times,” UMHB coach Mark Morefield said of his trio of posts. “We’re trying to find different ways to get it done. Every opponent is going to have something different, so we want to find something each game that we can take advantage of.”
Three-point plays by Jones and Hannah Holt, and Bethany McLeod’s layup off a steal stretched UMHB’s lead to 14 points in the first 2½ minutes of the third, and Ozarks got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
Kamryn McKinney had 13 points, and Kerigan Bradshaw and Janna Rhinehart chipped in 11 apiece for the Lady Eagles (5-6, 0-2), who committed 22 turnovers and shot only 36 percent overall.
Holt finished with 13 points as the only other double-digit scorer for the Lady Crusaders, who host defending conference champion Texas-Dallas on Saturday afternoon.
“I like where we’re at offensively,” Morefield said. “I want to see us play better defense on the ball. That’s the area of concern that we need to tighten up going into Saturday.”