Sherry McKinnon walked into the Ellison Lady Eagles locker room at halftime in the middle of Kenesha Saygo’s speech.
“We’ve come too far to give up and allow somebody to come take something away from us,” Saygo told the team.
After delivering the speech, Saygo scored 18 of her game-high 25 points in the second half
helping No. 15 Ellison rally from a 10-point deficit to beat host Killeen 61-57.
And, on the heels of Copperas Cove’s 53-42 upset of No. 13 Temple, Ellison (30-3, 12-1 8-5A) clinched at least a share of the District 8-5A title and can earn it outright with a win in its home finale against Shoemaker on Tuesday.
“They’re hard-working, Killeen is a very good team, but I think that we needed to prove ourselves and that’s what we did,” Saygo said. “And Temple losing, that just set it off.”
The Lady Eagles outscored Killeen 19-9 in the third quarter and then hit 11 of 17 free throws in the fourth to seal their 14th straight win since a 48-40 loss to the Tem-Cats on Dec. 21.
“We played a good game, we just didn’t play a good four quarters — we played a good, decent three — but that one quarter, we allowed them to come back in it and it was hard to come back,” said Killeen coach Latisha Williams.
Killeen (17-13, 7-6) lost its third straight game, but looked poised to pull the upset following a 13-4 run that spanned five minutes of the second quarter.
The Lady Roos led 31-23 at halftime and Jasmine Goodwine’s layup on the opening possession of the third quarter gave Killeen a 33-23 lead. But, the Lady Eagles turned to their fierce full-court pressure defense, sometimes sending as many as three girls to guard the Lady Roos ballcarriers as they tried dribbling up the court.
Ellison’s tactic forced five turnovers in the third and sparked its game-changing run.
“We know that defense wins championships, we know that’s what we’re very good at — full-court pressure,” McKinnon said. “They knew to get back in it, it was going to be one point at a time, but get out on defense, let’s get us some steals, let’s rattle them and hopefully wear them down.”
Saygo hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 3:20 left in the third and scored the go-ahead layup off a Deja Pointer steal with 3:03 left.
A 3-pointer by Esha Atkins cut a six-point Ellison lead to 56-53 with 1:43 left in the fourth, but the Lady Eagles never let Killeen get any closer after that.
“Last home game, every senior, every player wants to just go out there and give it their best and I feel like we played pretty hard,” said Goodwine, a senior who finished with a team-high 22 points and 18 rebounds. “We had some mess-ups (in the third quarter) that could’ve cost us the game, but we can’t leave this court with regrets that we didn’t play hard.”
Atkins scored 16 for Killeen and Francesca Patrick had 15 for Ellison.