COPPERAS COVE — Copperas Cove fell asleep defensively. Jordanna Porter, however, was alert and ready.
After the Lady Bulldawgs connected on five 3-pointers in a furious final three minutes to erase a double-digit deficit, the Ellison junior scored the game-winning layup off an inbound pass under the Lady Eagles’ basket with less than 20 seconds remaining.
For Porter, the uncontested basket was almost too easy.
“I didn’t see anybody on the backside,” she said. “The backside was wide open, so I just slid right through there and (teammate Francesca Patrick) had good court vision and saw me so I could lay it in.”
Porter’s shot gave Ellison a 72-70 victory, keeping the Lady Eagles’ unblemished District 8-5A record intact as they inch closer to the program’s first undefeated run through district under head coach Sherry McKinnon.
“They want to leave a legacy for the seniors and this year’s team, which many people thought would be down this season,” McKinnon said. “Their heart is in it, and they want to finish strong going into the playoffs.”
The Lady Eagles, who clinched their second consecutive district championship Friday, almost suffered their first district loss in over a year.
Ellison (23-7, 12-0) claimed its largest lead of the game, 68-53, on Bri’anna Gray’s basket in the paint with approximately three minutes remaining in regulation, but the Lady Bulldawgs did not go away.
Sparked by three consecutive 3-pointers from Xylina Carlisle, Kenya Haynes and Brittany Gamble, Copperas Cove rallied, tying the contest at 70-70 on Gamble’s second 3-pointer in less than 90 seconds. But following a timeout with 16.4 seconds remaining, Porter took advantage of the Lady Bulldawgs’ lack of attention, giving Ellison its second two-point victory against Copperas Cove this season.
“We just lost sight of her,” Lady Bulldawgs head coach Eldridge McAdams said of Porter, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “Her basketball IQ is pretty high. She knows where to get to and where to be. She got behind us, we focused (on the wrong things) and she scored a layup.
“You practice that situation, you teach it, but it is a different thing when it is in a game.”
In addition to her scoring, Porter added four rebounds, four assists, three steals and a block, but she got plenty of help from her teammates. Junior guard Gray and Patrick each tallied 16 points, while Madison Hattix-Covington finished with a dozen points to go with a team-high seven rebounds.
Ellison owned a 17-10 advantage following the first quarter and went into halftime leading 36-31. After falling behind by 10 points, 48-38, in the third quarter, Copperas Cove used an 11-1 run to tie the game at 49-49, but Porter quickly stole the momentum back for the Lady Eagles.
Hattix-Covington broke the tie with a basket and was fouled on the attempt, sending her to the free-throw line for an and-one opportunity with 1:15 left in the third quarter.
The freshman missed the free throw, but Porter grabbed the offensive rebound and scored as Ellison pushed its lead to 68-53 before the Lady Bulldawgs (16-11, 6-6) caught fire from behind the 3-point arc.
“I thought we had kind of put it away,” McKinnon said. “But against teams like that, you can’t let up. You have to fight. You have to finish strong, and you can’t make mistakes like missing your defensive assignments because those girls are good 3-point shooters.”
Gamble, who made both of her 3-point attempts, finished with a team-high 18 points for Copperas Cove, while Haynes and Blount scored 11 and 10 points, respectively.
It was not enough against a team determined to set a precedent.
“It is really imperative that we get an undefeated district title,” Porter said. “Even though we’ve already clinched it, we still want to get that 14-0 record and make Ellison history.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org