“The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.” — James M. Barrie, “The Little Minister”
Just a year ago, Shirretha Nelson was enjoying a ride of storybook proportion.
Harker Heights girls basketball was experiencing a magical season as a talented and experienced group of Lady Knights cruised to 29 straight victories before a 62-49 stumble against Temple on Jan. 24, 2012.
About 370 days later, it seems like the ride has twisted into a ghost story with a shell of that successful Harker Heights team now struggling to string together two victories in a row, let alone 29.
Coming out of that first loss to Temple a year ago, Nelson was disappointed, sure, but unfazed — she knew her team had plenty of ball left to play.
“You go out, you fight, you play hard — the outcome is up in the air. You want to win every game, but sometimes you can’t win every game,” Nelson said afterward.
But last year’s Lady Knights squad thought they could, carrying an unflinching bravado that kept them going strong until a season-ending region quarterfinal loss to Garland Sachse.
But the record shows a 35-2 campaign that will go down in the local basketball annals as one of the best single seasons in history.
This season, though, the tables have turned as the defending District 12-5A champions have fought tooth-and-nail to even win three games in district, including gut-check losses to rivals Shoemaker and Killeen, which secured the district’s final playoff spot after sweeping the Lady Knights (11-17, 3-9 8-5A) two weeks ago.
But all of Heights’ struggles came to a head Tuesday following a 57-37 loss to 13th-ranked Temple, which held the Lady Knights without a field goal for more than five minutes during the first quarter to take an early 14-2 lead.
“We know what we’re supposed to do — but we didn’t do it,” Nelson said.
Part of the troubles can be directly linked to a deluge of simple bad luck.
Playing without both her future-Division I juniors from last season, with 6-foot-1 post Brianna Freeman (New Mexico) having missed all season with a surgically-repaired knee and flashy guard JaQuan Jackson (Louisiana-Monroe) missing her third consecutive week with a back injury, the Lady Knights have experienced more literal and figurative pain this season than in any in recent memory.
“We’ve had so much turnover,… it’s hard to gain any (continuity) when the team changes so much,” Nelson said Tuesday.
But, although the ride has since become hazardous, and there’s been little in the way of enjoyment, the Lady Knights know how quickly tides can turn with just the flipping of the page.