BELTON, Texas — McMurry will get the opportunity to defend its American Southwest Conference championship, thanks to its 77-69 win against fifth-ranked team Mary Hardin-Baylor in the semifinals of the ASC tournament.
McMurry rode the efforts Jaden Isler in handing UMHB only its second loss of the season — both of which have come at the hands of the War Hawks. McMurry also topped the Crusaders (25-2) 75-71 on Jan. 21.
Isler scored 22 of his game-leading — and season-high — 26 points in the second half. Isler had a magnificent shooting night in virtually every way by hitting 7-of-10 from the field overall, 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and 8-of-9 from the free throw stripe.
While Isler took over matters in the second stanza, it was Steven Jones setting the tone at the outset. Jones scored all 10 of his points in the opening period and finished the game with a total of 12 rebounds to register his 10th double-double of the season.
McMurry jumped out to an 11-3 lead to open the game after a pair of free throws by Jones. But UMHB showed why it is one of the nation’s top teams, overtaking McMurry and building an 11-point halftime advantage, 40-29.
“Our guys never gave up,” McMurry coach J.D. Isler said. “They never quit believing that they would win the game.”
That became evident in the second half as the War Hawks mounted their assault behind Jaden Isler’s deft shooting and some stingy defense lead by senior Anthony Johnson. The tandem helped the team slowly chip away at the Crusaders.
“Jaden hit some big shots to keep us within striking distance,” J.D. Isler said of his son’s performance. “Our defense was a team effort, but Anthony [Johnson] has been the unsung hero for us…especially over the past three games. He did a great job on [UMHB's] Marlon Miller.”
Johnson also chipped in on the offensive end with 10 points as the third McMurry player in score in double figures.