Senior guard Alexis Popelar scored a career-high 37 points to fuel Hardin-Simmons to a thrilling 77-75 win over Trinity on Saturday afternoon in the Trinity Thanksgiving Tournament at the Bell Center.
The Cowgirls took advantage of a hot shooting touch to go on a 19-1 run to go up 33-14. The run lasted from the 9:42 mark to the 5:49 mark. In the run, Popelar had 12 of the points including a pair of 3-pointers and Taylor Rose added a 3-pointer in the run. Trinity responded to the run with an 18-3 run to close the half and HSU led 36-32 at halftime.
In the second half, the contest was back and forth throughout. Trinity took its first lead since a 4-1 lead early in the game, on an Anecia Richardson layup with 16:42 to play. After that there were 15 ties and 11 lead changes the rest of the way.
Trinity took its biggest lead of the game at 54-49, but HSU responded with a 3-pointer from Joanna Daniel and a jumper from Popelar to tie the game at 54. Neither team led by more than one possession the rest of the way.
Trinity led 73-71 with 2:13 to play when Daniel was called for a travel. The Tigers had a chance to build the lead to more than one possession but good defense led to a contested miss and then Daniel came right back down the floor and drained a 3-pointer to give the Cowgirls a 74-73 with 1:22 to play.
Hannah Coley broke the HSU pressure and drove in a for a layup :11 later. Daniel missed a contested layup with :42 seconds to play, but sophomore Jessi Perez picked up a steal and the Cowgirls had the ball back with a chance to take the lead.
Popelar took an isolation play and got into the paint and was fouled on a jumper. She hit both free throws to give the Cowgirls the 76-75 lead with :24 to play.
Trinity had a chance to take the lead but Murphy Burns’ 3-pointer rimmed out and Daniel rebounded with one second to play. She split the free throws and then intercepted a desperation pass at half court to seal the win.
The Cowgirls shot 47 percent from the field and hit 9-of-16 3-pointers in the contest.
Popelar’s 37 points are the second-most points in a game at HSU in the non-scholarship era. She hit 11-of-14 shots, was 4-of-6 from 3-point range and hit all 11 of her free throws. Lindsey Newcombe scored 38 points against Howard Payne as a freshman. Coco Cartwright was the only other Cowgirl in double figures with 10 points. Daniel had nine points and six rebounds.
Coley led Trinity with 18 points and Richardson had 16. It was the season-opener for the Tigers.
HSU improved to 1-2 and will play Southwestern at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Information provided by HSU athletics department.