Neither team was able to establish rhythm in the first half, with Ozarks (14-12) shooting 26 percent from the field while the Lady Jackets (19-7) made just 34 percent. Ozarks trailed 27-21 at the half. Howard Payne held a sizable 26-16 rebounding advantage in the first half.
“It was a game where we were playing nervous, but Howard Payne was tight, too,” said head coach Carl Ramsey. “Defensively, when you hold a team to 27 first half points, you feel like you have a chance to win. We had trouble putting the ball in the basket. We got frustrated late in the second half because our shots were not falling.”
The Lady Jackets built a 31-21 to open the second half, but Chelsea Glasscock completed a rare four-point play to put Ozarks within 31-25. Sabrina Goddard scored an inside basket and Ashley Teague followed with a layup to trim the deficit to 32-29. Howard Payne later held a 36-29 lead with 12:29 remaining, but Goddard answered with another shot followed by a free throw to make it 36-32. April Young drilled a three-pointer with 10:25 left to get Ozarks within 39-36 and a pair of free throws by Goddard put Ozarks within five points at the 8:07 mark. But just when it appeared the contest would go down to the wire, Howard Payne used its crowd of 1,925 and went on a 16-4 run to finish the game. At one point, Ozarks scored just two points over a seven-minute span in the second half. Howard Payne had the game under control building a 51-38 lead with 3:56 remaining.
“I told the girls after the game that this was one ballgame and did not make the season,” said Ramsey. “I don’t want them to believe that that game set the tone for what we did this year because I thought we played some pretty good basketball throughout the season. Coach Prock at Howard Payne did a great job of getting his team ready to play us. He did a good job of disguising if he was in a zone or man-to-man defense. Hats off to him and the team for winning the conference championship Sunday.”
Ozarks hit 21 percent from the floor in the second half and 24 percent for the game. The Lady Jackets finished with a 57-33 rebounding advantage.
Sabrina Goddard led Ozarks with 17 points and nine rebounds.