HARKER HEIGHTS — The tone was set before No. 11 Harker Heights and Pflugerville even tipped off Tuesday.
Doing its normal entrance on its home floor, Heights split in two and circled the court to meet at halfcourt for its pregame chant — only there was Pflugerville still doing its chant on the Heights logo.
“(Junior) C.J. (Bobbitt) pointed out that we can’t let that happen,” senior Cameron DeLaney said after the game. “When the game starts we’ve got to get up in them.”
In a charged atmosphere, Heights and Pflugerville got close and personal for 32 minutes Tuesday, and despite tallying just six field goals in the first half, Heights managed to pull away late for a 67-54 victory at home.
“Lucky was a dog and we were rubbing him today,” Knight coach Celneque Bobbitt said.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the largest lead for either team was six by Heights (6-1) and that lasted just one possession as the team traded blows the entire game, seemingly setting up for a classic finish.
The fourth, however, was a disjointed period, thanks to a technical on Pflugerville coach David Raigosa and a bizarre sequence where a Panther player was allowed to re-enter the game after he had fouled out with the officials and Raigosa both unaware that his last foul was his fifth.
Yet Heights weathered the storm and, most importantly, hit its free throws — going 15 for 19 in the fourth — to win the hotly-contested affair.
“It was pretty intense,” said Knight senior Cody Halvorson. “It was two teams, well-balanced and we know a lot of them from AAU, so it’s kind of an intersquad rivalry.”
Halvorson was big for the Knights early, canning three of his four 3-pointers in the first half.
Heights had just six field goals in the first half, but four were 3-pointers, and the Knights hit 14 of 19 free throws as they rarely settled for jump shots against the Pflugerville zone.
“They did a good job spreading us out in that 2-3 zone and that 3-2 zone, and every time you looked around it was going from a 2-3 to a 3-2 to a 2-1-2,” Celneque Bobbitt said. “It’s like a Syracuse deal. You’ve got to be patient, and that’s what I told the kids: ‘You’ve got to be patient.’”
After entering the half tied at 30, Heights earned its biggest lead to that point, 42-36, on a Halvorson 3-pointer with 1:45 remaining in the third. But Panther senior Nosa Ebomwonyi — who poured in a game-high 20 points — cut the lead in half on the next possession with one of his four 3-pointers.
Heights entered the fourth clinging to a four-point lead and finally got a bit of breathing room when Davon Clare tipped in a missed free throw by Josh DeLaney for a 48-39 advantage with 6:45 to play.
The closest Pflugerville got after that was 53-48 on a long 3-pointer by Ebomwyni near the 3:00 mark, but Heights had a response again, this time coming on a Cameron DeLaney 3-pointer on the next possession.
“I just kept my confidence and kept shooting open jump shots like my coach tells me to do,” said DeLaney, who led Heights with 17 after a slow start. “(I was) just doing whatever our coach wanted us to do to win the game.”
And after all the chirping early in the game, there were only smiles in the postgame as the Knights were happy to have passed one of their final nondistrict tests against a team gunning for them at home.
“Last year, we beat them at their house,” DeLaney said, “so they tried to come down here and steal one at our house.”