Even before the tip, Deja Pointer was smiling. She must have known what was coming.
There were smiles all around Tuesday as Codi Simmons hit back-to-back 3-pointers that barely scraped the net within the first 37 seconds of the game and No. 13 Ellison opened the District 8-5A slate with a 14-0 advantage en route to a statement-making 81-27 blowout of Waco Midway, a playoff team from a year ago as a member of 8-4A.
“Everybody was feeling it so it kind of lightened the mood, and everyone was working together to get the ball in the basket and get the win,” said Pointer, who scored 10 of her 13 points in the first quarter and hauled in five rebounds.
“I wanted them to come out and make a statement that we’re truly ready to play district basketball,” Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon said.
Bouncing back from last week’s 54-50 loss to No. 2 Pflugerville, the Lady Eagles (14-2, 1-0 8-5A) were flying up and down the court all night, fueled by a relentless full-court press that forced Midway into 38 total turnovers, 21 of which came via the steal.
“I felt like this press is a bomb press, we can get anybody rattled,” said Ellison senior point guard Kenesha Saygo. “It’s more up-tempo from what we usually play, with trapping, and I feel like we could be unstoppable with this press. Everybody gets in a (defensive) groove, no matter who it is.”
Saygo led all scorers with 19 points. She scored 12 in the second half, including six straight during a 58-second spurt midway through the third quarter that was sparked by a hard, and-one fast-break flip of the wrist as Ellison pulled ahead by 40-plus, 56-15, with 4:01 left in the frame.
“I was feeling the momentum, the hypeness of the crowd, the team, the coaches,” Saygo said of the run. “If I see (I’m going to get fouled), I’m going to take it up, throw it up, I don’t care how.”
Of course, Saygo’s behind-the-back baskets were more indicative of the overall confidence of the Lady Eagles on Tuesday, as everything seemed to go their way from the start.
Midway (3-9, 0-1) turned the ball over five times before ever attempting a shot and Ellison took advantage as Pointer followed Simmons with six straight points of her own before a Kaitlyn Shearer layup gave the Lady Eagles a 14-0 lead with 5:38 still to play in the opening quarter.
“It set the tone,” McKinnon said of Simmons’ treys. “And we’re a team that responds really well and it builds confidence in the whole team, especially those capable of shooting 3s.”
Rebekah Beaird connected on a three-point play on Midway’s first shot attempt, but turnovers continued to compound for the Pantherettes as Ellison built a commanding 26-6 advantage in the closing seconds of the first quarter after Christonna Jones dished to Brianna Gray for a fastbreak layup with 2.6 seconds remaining.
Francesca Patrick added 11 points and a game-high six steals, Gray had eight points to go along with seven rebounds, Kaitlyn Shearer had seven points and five boards and Simmons and Jones each contributed six points apiece.
“Defense wins championships. And teams that get to state, teams that win district, are teams that are playing very good defense,” McKinnon said. “And defense creates offense, and that’s what happened tonight.”