HARKER HEIGHTS — With Harker Heights and Waco Midway tied with less than a minute to play Friday, Lady Knight head coach Shirretha Nelson called a timeout but didn’t draw up a play.
Instead, she trusted Alexus Dukes or Angela DeLaney to find a way to put the ball in the basket one last time.
Dukes did just that and, at the end of the day, it clinched a playoff spot for the Lady Knights.
Dukes hit a baseline shot as she was falling to the floor to give Heights a 47-45 victory at the buzzer Friday, keeping the Lady Knights in the race for the No. 2 playoff seed in District 8-5A.
“It wasn’t a real shot. I don’t even know (what it was),” said Dukes, who had nine points in the game. “That was God being on my side, and that’s what that was.”
The game-winner proved even bigger later in the night when Nelson learned her team had clinched a playoff spot thanks to a 51-42 win by Temple against Copperas Cove.
At the time, the Heights players didn’t even know of the outcome.
“I might not even tell them,” Nelson joked. “I still want them to play hard (Tuesday against Cove).”
Heights (18-9, 8-5 8-5A) still needs a win against Cove and a Temple loss to Killeen on Tuesday to clinch the second seed outright, but the Lady Knights’ playoff destiny is set after Dukes’ heroics in the final minute.
After a seesaw third quarter ended with Midway up 36-35, Heights seemingly flipped a switch defensively, feeding off Midway turnovers to open the fourth with a 10-1 run.
Heights had 10 steals in the game, the last of which came courtesy of freshman Sheanne Ellis and led to a Dukes layup for a 45-37 lead with 4:32 to play.
But as Heights began trying to salt the game away, Midway began trapping in the Heights backcourt to get back in the game.
The result was an 8-0 Midway run that culminated with Armani Lang missing a pair of free throws, only for Harmony Carroll to put back the second miss to tie the game at 45 with 46 seconds to play.
“They have the size, they have the numbers and they have big girls that we just couldn’t contend with,” Nelson said of Midway, which had 11 offensive rebounds in the game. “And that made us struggle.”
Nelson called timeout after the putback and, on the following play, Dukes proceeded to run more than half a minute off the clock, waiting until there were less than 10 seconds to make her move.
“I saw Jada (Evans) open, it was like 19 seconds left, but I was like nah, nah we only need one,” Dukes said.
The strategy paid off as her wild shot swished in with no time remaining, giving Heights perhaps its biggest win of the season.
“It was major,” said senior Angela DeLaney, who led Heights with 10 points. “We had to make sure that we made this win, if we didn’t we weren’t going to make it to playoffs, so that was the main thing from the jump.”
And now the Lady Knights are playoff bound, thanks to Dukes’ faith in her shot and Nelson’s faith in her.
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562