BROWNWOOD, Texas — The Southwestern University Pirates women's basketball front court overwhelmed the Howard Payne University Yellow Jackets and defended the paint when it mattered most, holding on for a 65-64 victory.
After sparking a Howard Payne comeback with a brilliant fourth quarter performance, reserve guard Bria Neal was given the ball with the score tied and less than 30 seconds remaining.
The Yellow Jackets rebounded a Southwestern University missed corner 3-pointer, bringing the ball up quickly to get into their offense without a timeout. Howard Payne ran misdirection, moving the ball from side-to-side to get Neal the ball at the top of the key with a clear lane to the rim.
Pirates' forward Taylor Carney, who was guarding Neal, sussed it out, leaving the decoy action and navigating through traffic in the paint to take the perfect angle to meet Neal at the basket, engulfing her shot with a gigantic block that led to a tie-up and the Pirates' taking possession.
On the other end, Emma Lewis corralled a missed Carney 3-pointer and was fouled on her put back attempt, knocking down the game-winning free throw with two seconds remaining. Howard Payne missed its last opportunity on a drive, leaving the Pirates with the victory.
Southwestern's starting front court of Cecily Woolfolk and Noel Pratts combined for 36 points. Woolfolk scored 11 of her 17 points in the first half and grabbed 10 rebounds for her fourth double-double of the season and Pratts scored nine of her game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter to stave off the Yellowjackets' comeback.
Woolfolk helped set the tone in the first half, leading the Pirates to a 39-29 lead at the break.
Howard Payne got a big third-quarter effort from starting center Delaney Ingram, who scored eight points on 4-for-5 shooting to cut the Yellowjackets' deficit to 53-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
Pratts and Neal dueled the rest of the way, each scoring nine points in the fourth quarter with Pratts hitting all three of her shots from the field and going 3-for-3 from the free-throw line and Neal shooting 4-for-5 with one made free throw.
Southwestern shot 40.7 percent from the field to Howard Payne's 42.4 percent but made eight more free throws to overcome a 12-8 Howard Payne advantage in second-chance points.
Neal led three Howard Payne players in double figures with 19 points. Ingram had 14 points and six rebounds and Chelsey Harris had 10 points and nine rebounds.
Lauren Fulenwider continued her marksmanship off the bench, hitting 3-for-5 from deep for nine points, bringing her season total to nine 3-pointers on 42.9 percent shooting.
With the victory, the Pirates improve to 2-3 on the season. Southwestern will host the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m.