“It was the last weakness he meant to indulge in; and a man never lies with more delicious languor under the influence of a passion than when he has persuaded himself that he shall subdue it tomorrow.” — George Eliot, “Adam Bede”
Today’s world is a 24-hour news cycle with aggressive paparazzi, TMZ and celebrity gossip magazines lining the rack at H-E-B.
There’s not a whole lot that’s sacred or secret any more.
All aspects of a celebrity’s life are out there for anyone to peruse while waiting in line to pay for groceries. But usually, at least for us common folk, our inner flaws are usually harder to point out at first glance.
Except for the Harker Heights basketball teams.
It is a little over a week into the District 8-5A slate, and their weaknesses have been exposed to anyone paying attention.
Coming into the season, both the Knights and Lady Knights had clear deficits that they’d have to work through if they were going to be successful.
This time last season, both programs were on their ways to one of the most successful combined years in Heights hoop history, racking up a combined 61 wins, including the Lady Knights’ school-record 35-2 campaign.
The Heights girls were the definition of perfection through their first 29 games before suffering a regular season loss on Jan. 24 en route to the Lady Knights’ first-ever district championship.
But for both Heights boys and girls, last year seems like a lifetime ago.
For the Knights (10-5, 0-1 8-5A), who went from District 12-5A champions two years ago to runner-up last year, one game into the new 8-5A schedule has revealed their biggest defect — leadership.
Standing outside the Knights locker room after Tuesday night’s 50-44 loss to Ellison, one of the program’s most successful and experienced leaders, Thomas Cherry, shook his head at the lack of leadership.
He called this year’s edition one of the most talented he’s ever seen — this coming from a four-year varsity letterman and only player in program history to play in more than 100 varsity games during his career (107).
For the first time in years, the Knights don’t have a go-to player who’s grown up in the program. This season, the team’s most skilled players are juniors and sophomores unprepared to take control.
Meanwhile, the Lady Knights’ (6-8, 1-2 8-5A) dearth of rebounding has proved to be the most obvious problem so far, especially in Tuesday’s 60-49 loss to 11th-ranked Ellison.
The Lady Eagles outrebounded Heights 38-26 and used strong board play to turn a 24-18 deficit into a 28-24 lead in the second quarter.
In its last two 8-5A road losses to rivals Killeen and Ellison, the Lady Knights have been abused on the boards — 69 to 46. In the back-and-forth 52-49 loss to Killeen Dec. 14, Heights’ total rebounding output (20) was less than the Lady Roos’ showing on the defensive end (21 rebounds).
Part of the Lady Knights’ problem is a lack of a true post presence after multiple off-season knee surgeries sidelined 6-foot senior Brianna Freeman.
Heights didn’t have a lot of experience coming back, but losing the University of New Mexico-signed Freeman before the season was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Freeman said it best this week: “They are in the position to be successful and they’re not reaping the benefits.”
Even though there isn’t much height on Heights’ roster, rebounding can be done by even the smallest player, as evidenced by Ellison guard Deja Pointer, who pulled down 12 boards Tuesday.
It’s still early, and there’s plenty of time to turn their fortunes around. If they don’t, while others are prepping for the postseason, Heights could be stuck in line reading gossip magazines.