Girls Basketball: Ellison v. Killeen

Killeen’s Raven Ringo, left, is guarded by Ellison’s Deja Blanchard on Friday night at Ellison.

Sherry McKinnon is the eight-year head coach of the Ellison Lady Eagles. Under her guidance, Ellison has made the playoffs six consecutive seasons. The Lady Eagles have won the district title in three of the past four years. Ellison clinched the 2014 title last week.

Ellison’s regular-season finale is Tuesday at Shoemaker. On Friday, the host Lady Eagles defeated Killeen 53-47, upping their district record to a perfect 13-0. After the game, McKinnon talked with the Herald’s Allan Mandell.

Did anybody tell Madison Hattix-Covington — 16 points and 11 rebounds tonight — that freshmen aren’t supposed to play like this at the varsity level?

(Laughing) No. She did an amazing job tonight and she really carried us. For a freshman to do what she did tonight is pretty special. I remember telling you before that she’ll be pretty good. Well, she showed tonight she’s coming into her own already. To be our leading scorer, making crucial baskets, hitting big-time free throws made me very proud of her. She sure didn’t play like a freshman.

There were 18 points by Ellison tonight in the third quarter and 12 of them were scored by Madison.

She was on. We talked to her about getting to the hole tonight and she did that. Killeen didn’t have an answer for her. You’d want a freshman to grow up quickly. Well, she grew up pretty fast tonight. She didn’t get rattled. There was a lot of energy in our gym tonight—parent night, senior night—so I think our team lost a little focus early. But Madison stepped up and played, and that’s what you’d want from a freshman playing up on varsity.

Once again, Jordanna Porter, in crunch-time, came through for you. With 55 seconds left, two defenders around her, she made the putback to extend your lead to five. Postgame, she was a little mad at herself about her overall game. But she came through in the clutch.

Yes, she certainly came through there. Tonight was a valuable learning lesson for Jordanna. Even though her shots weren’t falling like they usually do, she hung in there and kept fighting and then made that key putback for us when it really counted. That’s a great learning lesson: Even if things aren’t falling your way as an individual, it’s always about the team. And Jordanna, like any very good player, will have nights when things aren’t quite going your way but you still keep your focus. For Jordanna to make that play so late was huge for us. I’m glad she hung in there and kept her focus.

Coach, Francesca Patrick, as per usual, was also terrific. It’s pretty clear she’s your coach on the floor. Killeen played some pretty good defense on her at times, but Francesca, with 11 points and four assists, never lost her cool.

Yes, they tried to trap her at times. And sometimes they were able to do that. They tried to pressure her a lot and they tried to keep that ball out her hands — which, of course, is the smart thing to do against us because so much of what we do on offense goes through her. But she still came out with 11 points and got those assists and did well with her free throws. She’s consistently getting it done for us. She never gets frustrated—that’s what I love most about her. She does lead us.

And then there’s Bri’anna Gray. She’ll set a nice pick, grab a clutch rebound, score a big basket, play tough defense, and plenty more. She does just about everything.

She does. I’m glad that I get her one more year, too. She’s pretty hard on herself. But she’s learning now to just relax, to keep on playing no matter what, keep working on getting the job done. Let the game come to you. She’s become the complete player that we needed her to be, especially now with the playoffs approaching. She’s a big key to our success.

Also tonight, Naomi Burnette came through with three clutch field goals, one in that fourth quarter, and Arriyanna Forch scored two big buckets in that second quarter.

And Arriyanna Forch will just keep on getting better for us. Once her confidence goes up, she will be an even better player. I want her to believe in herself as much as I believe in her. She’s very strong. At the post, she’s playing a difficult position, but she’s continually improving.

Naomi sometimes gets in foul trouble simply because we give her some difficult defensive assignments but she hung in there well tonight. Like you said, all her points were clutch, especially that big basket in the fourth quarter.

So, Coach, now you’re 13-and-0. You’re on the verge of making history. As best we know, no Ellison Lady Eagles squad has ever gone 14-0 in district. Your girls said they are really excited for Tuesday night.

They are. This is one thing that they set out to do. To be able to do that will be really special. I think you’ll see a lot more emotion coming out of them that night and I know you’ll see a lot of emotion coming out of me. To have a group of young ladies that, every day, are doing the right things to try and be successful is so meaningful to me. They want to please me and they want to please each other. There are not a lot of teams in the state that go undefeated in their district season. And I think our district is very strong. To be undefeated would be special; our girls said they plan on getting this done on Tuesday — and I believe them.

Contact Allan Mandell at or 254-501-7566​ and read his blog on

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