COPPERAS COVE — As the ball rolled off her fingers from the right corner of the key, Deja Pointer glanced into the Copperas Cove stands and saw her mother one more time.
“I looked over and saw her,” Pointer said.
Two years to the day she watched her mother, Sonya, take her final breath, the Ellison senior sharpshooter relived one of the greater moments in her life, scoring 18 of her 20 points in the first half and powering the emotionally-charged No. 11 Lady Eagles to a 72-58 win over District 8-5A leading Copperas Cove on Friday.
“If feels really weird to be here at home doing things, because for us it was such a big game and it seems like it’s our first home game ... so it was a little different,” Cove coach Teresa Durham said. “But it doesn’t matter, at this point of the season you have to make adjustments and play.”
In the same gym she shot five 3-pointers in a stirring win over rival Killeen a week before her mother’s death — the last game Sonya ever saw her daughter play — Deja once again sparked Ellison with her prowess from beyond the arc, draining four 3s in the first half.
“I just imagined her here and in that corner, and went for it,” said Deja, who also pulled down seven rebounds.
From that spot along the right side of the court, just beyond the Lady Bulldawgs’ bench, Pointer received the kickout from Codi Simmons and sent the ball lofting in a perfect arch right through the net. It was from her mother’s spot atop of the visitor side of the bleachers, Pointer pictured her mother, strong as ever, pumping her fist and loudly cheering her on.
“I was so proud of her and I told her at the end of the game that I thought her mother would be so proud of her,” Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon said of Pointer’s play.
That trey, with 5:04 to play in the second quarter, came in the midst of an 8-0 run that gave Ellison its first double-digit advantage, 26-16, with 4:42 left in the first half. She’d miss her next three tries from deep but after Cove cut it 28-25 with two minutes remaining, Pointer followed seven straight points teammate Kenesha Saygo with her final 3 with 10 seconds left to plate the Lady Eagles a 38-27 halftime advantage.
The emotional charge was just what Ellison (22-3, 4-1 8-5A) needed to keep itself afloat in the early running for the District 8-5A championship after succumbing to district-leading Temple, 48-40, at home in its last district game Dec. 21.
“It was really important to get us back on track to where we want to go, and that’s of course to win the district championship, so we had to win this game,” McKinnon said.
While the first half seemed to be all Pointer’s, it was Saygo’s daring ability to slice left of to the basket and either get a shot off or draw contact, scoring 13 of her team-high 25 points in the second half, including shooting 10-of-12 from the free-throw line.
“Just a few days ago, coach McKinnon said I need to score more, I need to get more into my game, so I was thinking about that and I guess I just did it,” said Saygo, who let out a scream after securing an and-one opportunity midway through the fourth quarter that would put Ellison ahead 63-46 with 4:35 left.
The Lady Eagles’ emotion was matched only by the will of Lady Bulldawgs senior guard Shawnte’ Goff, who shot a perfect 12 of 12 from the charity stripe and finished with a game-high 30 points. But no other Cove player could get going offensively, with Goff scoring 19 of her team’s 31 second-half points. Bryaunea Hall added eight second-half points and 12 rebounds.
“A lot of it goes back to we didn’t rebound well tonight, so (Goff) converted everything and on those other shots we didn’t get second attempts, and that kills you,” Durham said.