Even after last Friday’s convincing 67-43 win over first-place Temple, creating a two-way tie atop the District 8-5A standings, Ellison head coach Sherry McKinnon didn’t want her team to feel accomplished — not yet, at least.
“If you want something, you’re going to have to go get it, no one’s going to give you anything — not in our district ... so you’re going to have to get out and take it,” McKinnon said. “We also need to be making a statement every time about how we’re going to play.”
With a deep playoff run in mind, the No. 15 Lady Eagles did just that Tuesday, controlling the backboard and forcing their way into the lane for the hard points — at the foul line — for a 61-47 win over Copperas Cove.
“Get to the hole, that was the big thing I was telling them, ‘We just need to get to the hole,’” McKinnon stressed.
Behind the strong post play of 6-foot-1 senior Kaitlyn Shearer, who pulled down a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and the attacking play of senior Kenesha Saygo, who chipped in 16 points, including 6-of-7 from the free-throw line, the Lady Eagles made their living in the lane against Copperas Cove.
“Kaitlyn is real big and she had to get real strong today, and coach McKinnon kept telling us, ‘It’s a post game, it’s a post game, Kaitlyn’s open,’” Saygo said. “And Kaitlyn just had to do her move and get in there, and that’s what she did tonight.”
Controlling the boards, Ellison (29-3, 11-1 8-5A) outrebounded the Lady Bulldawgs 44-29, including 23 to 11 on the offensive end, keeping Cove from ever taking advantage of second-chance opportunities when leading scorer Shawnte’ Goff managed only eight points on 4-of-20 shooting for the evening.
Shearer set the pace early, working her way to the hole with a three-point bankshot and a left-handed layup to put the Lady Eagles up 5-0 in the first minute.
“We had to make sure we were feeding (Shearer) because the last time we played (Cove), ... I felt like there was no one that could contain Kaitlyn,” McKinnon said.
Cove (22-9, 9-3) didn’t go quietly, though, as junior post Bryaunea Hall ripped the ball from Shearer under her own basket and put it in to pull within 11-9 with 3:17 remaining in the first quarter. But that only seemed to spark Ellison as senior Deja Pointer hit a righthanded runner and the Lady Eagles did the rest at the foul line, shooting 4 of 7 to close out the final 1:42 on an 8-0 run to lead 19-9 entering the second quarter.
“Ellison is a good team, they took advantage of all those easy fouls that were called and they converted, so congratulations to them, but hopefully we’ll get a chance to meet them again (in the playoffs),” Cove head coach Teresa Durham said.
The foul differential proved to be the Lady Dawgs’ undoing early as Ellison found itself on the foul line 10 times in the first quarter compared to zero for Cove. That ballooned to 20 free-throw attempts for Ellison by the end of the third quarter compared to just three for the Lady Dawgs as the Lady Eagles built a 47-35 lead entering the fourth. Cove finished 4-of-9 from the charity stripe versus 18-of-25 for Ellison.
“When you’re on the road, sometimes you’re never going to get a call, but honestly ... I just thought (the fouls) were ridiculous after awhile,” Durham said. “I’d like to see the game decided by just the players, because I’m kind of old-school like that.”
Hall and fellow post Mikayla Blount led the third-place Lady Dawgs with 12 points, along with 13 rebounds for Blount, while reserve guard Angel Mullen hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter and finished with eight points to tie with Goff.