In eight years under head coach Sherry McKinnon, the Ellison Lady Eagles have never swept Temple.
Ellison also has never won consecutive district titles under McKinnon.
But heading into Friday, the Lady Eagles were confident 2014 was going to be the first time for both and even told McKinnon before hosting the Tem-Cats.
“We wanted to stay undefeated,” junior Jordanna Porter said of her teammates’ bold proclamation. “We don’t want to let our coach down, so we felt like we needed to go out there and do all we could to get that win.”
Temple didn’t make it easy, but Ellison lived up to its word Friday, scoring the final 11 points of the contest to defeat Temple 50-38 at Ellison gymnasium.
The win not only kept Ellison (22-7, 11-0) perfect in league play but clinched the outright District 8-5A title, the Lady Eagles’ second in a row.
“I’m just really blessed to be surrounded with great coaches that help me out in every area,” McKinnon said, “and an administration that hires some good coaches, people that we need in order to continue to be successful.
“My middle school coaches are doing a great job, so they’re feeding us good kids, kids who know a little bit about basketball, so that makes my job a lot easier.”
Madison Hattix-Covington, a player who was in middle school this time last year, and Porter, who also began her varsity career as a freshman, were key in helping the Lady Eagles pull away late in the game.
With Temple clinging to a 32-29 lead in the final two minutes of the third, Ellison snapped a 6-0 run with back-to-back baskets, the second of which came after Hattix-Covington stole a pass and went coast to coast, finishing on a runner for a 33-32 lead with 51 seconds remaining in the period.
Hattix-Covington finished with just six points, but McKinnon was happy that the freshman was able to find other ways to affect the game.
“I loved it because there’s times when the offense is not there and you’re not going to score,” McKinnon said. “But the fact that she was in getting offensive rebounds, she got a key steal there, and moving and keeping playing shows that she’s getting comfortable in her own skin and playing at this level.”
Then in the fourth, Porter sparked an 11-0 run to end the game by canning a corner 3-pointer that put Ellison up 42-38 with 4:20 to play. The 3-pointer was the Lady Eagles’ only of the game and their first field goal outside the paint.
Yet Ellison, which shot 38 percent from the field overall, never seemed fazed by its cold shooting.
“You just have to keep shooting and driving and trying to draw a foul until our shots start going in,” Hattix-Covington said.
Porter, who played just 3:57 in the first half after picking up two early fouls, came alive just in time for Ellison, scoring 10 of her team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter. Fellow junior Bri’anna Gray also added 11 points while senior Francesca Patrick had 10.
Jazzmen Ortiz scored 19 points to lead all scorers for Temple, but it wasn’t enough as the Tem-Cats were shut out in the final 5:31 of the game.
And after making good on its latest promise to McKinnon, Ellison was already looking forward to its next lofty goal for this regular season.
“Undefeated (in district play),” Hattix-Covington said.