Afterward, the Harker Heights fans and players just wanted to hear the “strange” accent of their counterparts from Down Under.
But when the ball was in the air, it was all business Monday during a girls-boys doubleheader between Harker Heights and the Australian-based Victoria Metro traveling teams.
“I think it’s awesome. I have a bunch of my kids who now (realize) people play basketball all around the world — good basketball, obviously,” Heights boys basketball coach Celneque Bobbitt said.
Vic Metro, an organizational club team with many players from in and around Melbourne, Australia, made its first stop along a 21-day, five-city barnstorming tour around the country, with games set in Temple today before heading to North Carolina, New York and California.
“The kids get to see all the stuff they’ve grown up watching on television all their lives,” Vic Metro coach Paul Lankford said, with the players and coaches bunking with host families during their tour.
“That’s an awesome experience for the kids, they get a part of the American way of life a little bit.”
But before all the fun, the Heights boys closed out the final five minutes of the third quarter on 15-2 run and turned a tight game into a 64-44 blowout for the split against Victoria Metro.
Earlier, it was the Aussie girls that flexed their muscles coming out of halftime, taking advantage of their height and discipline advantage in a 24-13 third quarter for a 73-63 win despite a season-high 40 points from Heights senior JaQuan Jackson.
After being outrebounded 21-7 in the first half against the taller Vic Metro boys, with five players 6-foot-6 and above, the scrappy Knights turned up the heat on their full-court press in the third quarter and forced Metro into 11 turnovers as Heights stretched a their lead to 45-32 at the start of the fourth quarter.
“I think this might be the first time you ever look on a stat sheet and see a team get their butt whooped dang near 2-to-1 on rebounds and come out with a victory,” Bobbitt said. “When their point guard is as big as our biggest guy, it’s hard, but don’t take anything away from them, they came in and schemed.”
Lankford was put back by the frequency of fouls being called, as he finished with three players with four fouls apiece.
“Probably the biggest difference is we sort of get hand-breaked with the physicality here (in the states), internationally — and a lot of these kids have represented Australia in international tournaments — where they’re allowed to get away with more,” Lankford said. “When you play some of those European teams, it’s like they’re allowed to bring machine guns out onto the court.”
The Knights’ full-court pressure continued to cause Vic Metro fits, as back-to-back turnovers on steals by Andre Hughes (16 points) and Jeremy Thomas led directly to buckets from Josh Delaney (15 points) to cap a 14-6 run to start the fourth quarter and a 59-38 advantage with 3:58 left to play.
“We finally stepped it up when we finally got focused, I don’t think we were focused,” Bobbitt said of the defensive pressure.
“The only thing I can say, at least we’re making good in-game adjustments.”
Melbourne (AUS) Victoria Metro 73, Harker Heights 63 — Having struggled with her shot in recent games, JaQuan Jackson just wanted to come out and get into a rhythm.
And with five 3-pointers in the first quarter, the Lady Knights senior found it in spades, scoring a season-high 40 points.
“I was pretty hot. … I could tell just by the way I jumped, it was like, ‘Yeah, that’s going in,” Jackson said.
But not even Jackson’s hot hand was enough to keep pace with the size and discipline of the visiting Victoria Metro girls, who countered with seven players with at least six points, including a team-high 18 from 6-foot-5 sophomore Lauren Scherf.
“Sometimes you have to step up and sometimes you don’t, but I needed somebody (else) to step up tonight,” Jackson said. “Coming back (as the senior captain), it’s like all the weight’s on me, and it’s cool … but somebody just has to step up.”
Despite pulling even at 33-33 on an Alexus Dukes 3-pointer with 1:36 left in the second quarter, the Lady Knights came out flat in the third and Vic Metro capitalized with an 11-2 run over the first 2½ minutes of the frame for a 46-35 advantage on a layup by Scherf.
Dukes added 12 points and Angela Delaney had eight, but Funda Nakkasoglu had 11 for Vic Metro, followed with eight from Amelia Smith, seven from Gemma Fyffe and six apiece from Molly Jovic, Gina O’Brien and Sam Moodie.