The women’s basketball team made it to the local conference tournament before falling short 6 points in its semifinal game.
After going 22-4 in the regular season and winning their first game against Hardin-Simmons, the team lost against East Texas Baptist University on Feb. 23, with a final score of 60-66. The team was ranked No. 24 by the Women’s Basketball Coach’s Association and selected for an at-large bid in the NCAA Division III tournament. The team also had several players honored throughout the season, including sophomore guard Victoria Pena, who was the ASC East Division Player of the Year.
In the first round of the ASC tournament, the team played the Hardin-Simmons Cowgirls on Feb. 22. The Cowgirls fell behind as the Comets gained an early lead, beginning the second half up 7 points. The team kept the lead with the help of senior forward Madison Steele, who achieved a career high of 26 points, and Pena, whose game-high six assists helped the team get their double-digit lead.
The Cowgirls were unable to bridge the gap, and the game ended with a final score of 86-56. Assistant coach Natalie Marlowe attributed this early lead to the Comet’s tendency to cycle players throughout the game.
“We control their playing time,” Marlowe said. “We make sure we get the right group of kids in at the right time to help us get that edge.”
In the semifinal round on Feb. 23 the team faced off against ETBU. The Comets faced the ETBU Wildcats on Jan. 11 and the game ended with a final score of 59-55 for the Comets. In the semifinals of the ASC tournament, UTD led ETBU for the first half of the game, ending with an 11-point lead. However, at the start of the second half, ETBU quickly gained a 6-point lead on the Comets. Head coach Polly Thomason said the loss was because of hesitation on the part of the offensive players.
“We just stop making some shots, we were hesitant when we were open,” Thomason said. “We picked the wrong day to have a lack of confidence in our offense.”
The victory against the Comets allowed ETBU to move on to the final round of the ASC. From there, ETBU faced off against Mary Hardin-Baylor, where they won the championship 71-70. The loss did not keep the Comets from the NCAA Division III National Tournament and Pena said the team was hopeful for a comeback after the ASC loss.
“We want to finish the season on a high note,” Pena said. “Even if we lose down the road, just knowing that we gave it our all is important for us.”
During the regular season, the team had two nine-game winning streaks and sat on top of the NCAA Division III South Regional Rankings for all of February. Five Comets were given honors by the ASC, as well as head coach Polly Thomason, who was given ASC East Coach of the Year for the fourth time in her career.
The Comets opened the NCAA tournament with a 79-70 win over Trinity University before being eliminated in their rematch against ETBU, losing 51-64.
The men’s basketball season came to a close after losing to the Sul Ross State Lobos 54-62 in the semifinals of the ASC Tournament.
After defeating the Concordia Tornadoes 81-65 in the quarter-finals on Feb. 22, the team advanced to the semifinal round for the first time since 2014, when they last won the championship. Although the Comets beat both Concordia and Sul Ross State in the regular season, they failed to capitalize against the Lobos at the tournament. Though they came up short of their goal, the team recorded seven more wins than last season, and finished with a 19-8 record.
Against the Tornadoes, the Comets were down by 4 points at halftime before the offense began to click, and they outscored the Tornadoes 50-30 in the second half. They dominated on defense with 32 points off turnovers. Sophomore guard Dimitrius Underwood led the team in offensive production and recorded a double-double by shooting 13-22 from the field, with 35 points and 10 rebounds.
“There was a stretch where we went down 10 points, and I just remembered saying to myself, ‘Hey, this is not how I want our season to end,’” Underwood said. “I tried to make plays where I could, and luckily the shots fell and it was just a good night for me all around.”
The Comets struggled offensively against the Lobos during their Feb. 23 game. They shot 18-61 on the field, with Underwood being the only scorer in double digits with 11 points. Although their field goal percentage increased in the second half, they were outscored 39-33, as the Lobos advanced to the ASC Finals, where they defeated East Texas Baptist University. Head coach Terry Butterfield said the players executed well on defense, but offensive production was subpar, especially against Sul Ross State.
“We played good defense, and we held them to about 33 percent from the field,” Butterfield said. “We shot the ball very poorly and only shot 29 percent in the game, which is incredibly bad.”
At the conclusion of the season, five Comets were awarded by the ASC. Senior point guard Caleb Banks was named to the All-ASC East Second Team. Freshman forward Kelden Pruitt was named to the All-ASC Freshman Team. Senior guard Jon Hatcher and senior forward Reagan Keogh were listed as honorable mentions, and Underwood was named to the All-ASC Squad and the ASC-East First Team.
“I definitely worked hard for it, but I don’t want to become complacent,” Underwood said. “I want to just continue to get better and be the best player that I can be.”
Looking toward next season, the Comets are keeping their core group together, as they are only losing three seniors. The players will begin the strength program this offseason and work individually to make another run in the ASC Tournament next season.
“We’ve got a really good nucleus of guys coming back,” Butterfield said. “I think our guys have learned from the seniors this year, but I think they’re ready to chart their own course next year.”