By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
SALADO - Despite Salado's preseason struggles, second-year coach Jeanette McKinney had seen flashes of what her team was capable of.
But against Lorena, the 11th-ranked team in Class 3A, those flashes came together like a string of Christmas lights as the sub-.500 Lady Eagles knocked off the previously unbeaten Lady Leopards 48-44 in double-overtime Monday afternoon.
"It's huge. Is there a bigger word for that - humendous?" McKinney said. "We needed that."
Led with a game-high 22 points from senior wing Hadley Joiner, who was a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe during the fourth quarter and overtime periods, Salado (7-9) was able to outlast repeated Lorena rallies.
"I think we were just tired of playing the games we'd played, and we just wanted to show everyone that we're not fake - we're a real team and we're going to play like we know how," Joiner said.
The Lady Eagles jumped out on Lorena early, mounting a 12-4 first-quarter advantage following a Joiner buzzer-beating 3-pointer, her second of the opening period.
Salado extended its lead to nine 45 seconds into the second quarter on a 3 by senior post Jenna Sebek, who finished with 13 points, but it wasn't long before the Lady Leopards (15-1) rallied.
Sparked by a Briana Lina layup with 4:20 left before halftime, Lorena outscored Salado 12-1 over the next two minutes to take its first lead, 20-18, on a Kaitie Sampson three-point play.
The lead was short-lived though as Lady Eagles point guard Alexis Bowman rebounded and put back her own miss on a fast-break opportunity with just over a minute to play before halftime to tie it at 20-20.
The second half was a back-and-forth affair that included four ties - including the last in regulation when Lorena sophomore Summer Dolezel nailed a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left to make it 35-35.
Salado stretched its lead to five, 41-36, midway through the first overtime period, capped by four consecutive Joiner free throws after Lorena coach Rodney Gee was called for a technical while arguing whether or not Sampson fouled out on the previous play.
The Lady Leopards responded again, forcing back-to-back turnovers and converting them with a Lina layup and an Erin Sims 3 to send it to second overtime tied at 41-41.
Sebek gave Salado a quick lead with a short-range jumper 22 seconds into the extra period and the Lady Eagles extended it as both Joiner and senior post Katy Clark hit both of their opportunities from the line in the final 10.5 seconds to cap the upset.
Shoemaker 64, Belton 55 - At Belton, Kiara Rawls scored 17 of her 23 points in the first half, and LaFaydra Collins scored six in the in the final 4½ minutes of the fourth quarter to lead the Lady Grey Wolves to their first District 12-5A victory since the 2008-09 season.
The district-opening victory ended a draught of 21 straight 12-5A losses for Shoemaker, whose last district win was a 46-41 victory over Harker Heights on Jan. 23, 2009
Collins' putback with 4:38 left pushed the Lady Grey Wolves' lead to six, 57-51 and her layup with 3:15 left gave Shoemaker (7-11, 1-2) a nine-point lead.
Belton's Meghan Braeuer cut the lead to six on a layup with 1:19 left, but the Lady Tigers (6-12, 0-3) didn't score again while Rawls and Cion Hicks hit free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.
Braeuer scored 17 of her game-high 28 points in the second half and led Belton back from a 39-26 halftime deficit to being just five down, 47-42, to start the fourth.
Salado 43, Robinson 36 - At Salado, senior guard Tony Sager scored 10 of his game-high 14 points to go along with nine of his 11 rebounds in the second half and helped the Eagles enter Christmas break with a win.
After shooting a paltry 7-of-22 in the first half to trail 21-17, Salado (11-3) found a toughness coming out of halftime thanks to Sager, who pulled down six boards and scored the final four points in a 10-1 third quarter effort.
"There was a time span there that his extra effort really kept us alive," Salado coach Kenny Mann said of Sager. "He made some plays that were really huge for us, where everybody else seemed like they were going through the motions a little bit."
Lorena 47, Salado 42 - At Salado, after catching Lorena off guard early with its pressure, Salado got a taste of its own medicine as the Leopards rallied Monday.
After trailing 15-11 entering the second quarter, the Leopards (15-1) returned the favor beginning as lanky post Tyler Underwood forced the first of 10 Salado second-quarter turnovers and pulled within 24-21 with less than 30 seconds left before halftime.
Shoemaker 66, Belton 51- At Shoemaker, A.J. McDonald scored 17 points, dished out four assists and led the Grey Wolves over Belton in the teams' District 12-5A opener.
The Tigers hung with Shoemaker (8-4, 1-0 in 12-5A) for the majority of the first half, as Sean Voss, who led Belton with 28 points, continually carved his way through the heart of the Grey Wolves' defense.
Things started to fall apart for Belton with a minute left in the first half when Shoemaker senior sharpshooter Anthony Gonzales scored five of the last seven points to put Shoemaker up 28-22 at the break, and then paired with McDonald on the first nine points of the third quarter. The four-minute stretch saw Shoemaker's lead grow from one point to 15, 37-22.