Something had to change.
After posting 13 points in the first half and making just one field goal in the second quarter, Killeen found itself trailing by double digits early in the third quarter.
Then, Tia Harston helped the Lady Kangaroos turn things around, scoring 19 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to lead Killeen to a
48-44 victory against Copperas Cove in the District 8-5A opener.
The rally began because of a halftime attitude adjustment, according to Harston.
“Everyone wanted to win, and everyone played like they wanted to win (in the second half),” the sophomore guard said. “Our intensity got higher even though we were down. I think it was just a lot of intensity.”
Killeen (4-5, 1-0) lost both of its district games against Copperas Cove last season, including a one-point road loss, and it appeared history would repeat itself. But the Lady Kangaroos outscored their opponent 35-23 in the second half, using an 11-0 run to claim their first lead with less than four minutes remaining in the third quarter.
The game remained relatively close for the duration, and the determination to win was exactly what Killeen head coach Latisha Williams needed to see from her team.
“I was really proud of my girls with their heart and just the fight they had in them,” she said. “They didn’t die, and in that first half, it was looking really bad and really bleak, but they just kept going and kept pushing.”
Copperas Cove (6-5, 0-1) created an immediate 9-2 advantage as Killeen missed 14 of its first 16 field-goal attempts. The Lady Bulldawgs increased their cushion to 10 points, 21-11, on Caprica Brooks’ long jumper with 76 seconds remaining before halftime.
Free throws from Ceida Williams and Keaunna Johnson trimmed the deficit to eight points at halftime, but the Lady Kangaroos had no momentum following the 4-of-26 shooting performance.
Copperas Cove junior guard Angel Mullen opened the third quarter with a layup to extend the Lady Bulldawgs’ lead back to double digits, but then Killeen charged back.
Harston’s first points of the second half came with 3:49 remaining in the third quarter as she hit a pair of free throws to give Killeen its first lead of the game, 24-23, before hitting consecutive 3-pointers to send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Tied 33-33 entering the fourth quarter, the teams alternated baskets until Killeen used a 10-5 run to close the game and secure the victory.
“Not to take anything from (Killeen), but we just gave it to them,” first-year Copperas Cove head coach Eldridge McAdams said. “We’re not finishing, we’re not doing what we need to do as a team, and we’ve just got to go back to the drawing board and change all of that.”
The Lady Bulldawgs turned the ball over 21 times, including 12 in the second half, and committed 19 fouls, allowing Killeen to score 17 points at the free-throw line. Harston made four clutch free throws in the game’s final minute after Copperas Cove senior Xylina Carlisle hit a deep 3-pointer to pull within two points, 46-44, with 32 seconds remaining.
“It is really hard, it’s pressure,” said Harston of the late free throws. “It gets you thinking a lot. You are praying, you’re hoping that you don’t miss.”
In addition to her offense, Harston finished with four rebounds and a steal, while Williams scored eight and Raven Ringo and Jacen Moore each scored seven points.
Brittany Gamble posted a team-high 12 points for Copperas Cove but was limited to just three points in the second half. Carlisle finished with eight points, while Blount added seven to go with 10 rebounds. Lady Bulldawgs senior post Bryaunea Hall grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
But it was not enough.
“(The comeback) just came from within them,” said Williams of her team. “They wanted to win the basketball game, and then they woke up and played like they wanted to win the basketball game.”