By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
Chelsea Grant didn't appreciate being blocked.
After getting stuffed by Heights counterpart Deysia Burden late in Game 4, Ellison's 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker single-handedly brought the Lady Eagles back from the brink and put the rest of District 12-5A on notice.
Taking control of the net with her team trailing 23-21 in Game 4, Grant scored five of the next six points to force a fifth game, as Ellison stole a 17-25, 25-15, 22-25, 26-24, 15-10 victory over the host Lady Knights on Tuesday.
"It felt good," said Grant, who posted a team-high 15 kills and 15 blocks. "They think they could dominate over us and everything, but we just had to come back and play how we play ... We just had to come and show them."
Described as going "ballistic" by Heights coach Chris Wiley, Grant was unstoppable in killing and blocking her way to 12 of Ellison's final 20 points over the last two games in what was a definitive statement game for the Lady Eagles (13-16, 3-1).
"She just went crazy on that front, and that's what we needed," first-year Ellison coach William De Gracia said of Grant.
After years of floundering around the bottom of the district standings, the Lady Eagles established themselves as legitimate playoff contender, currently occupying third place two weeks into the 12-5A slate.
"We said this game is going to make that playoff or not and now it gives us a good chance to see where we will be seeded at," De Gracia said.
It was a tough loss to swallow for Heights (11-9, 1-3), another expected postseason challenger seeking its first playoff trip since 2003.
Behind its own strong front line play of Burden, Anjane Janda, and Shantraie Rodriguez, the Lady Knights were in control in Game 1.
After giving away Game 2, the third game went in Heights' favor as setter Katie Schulte served up a 5-0 lead while Burden and Janda combined with Darean Bogue to build it to a 15-11 advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
Carrying that momentum over to Game 4, the Lady Knights led throughout, at least until Grant decided she'd seen enough.
"The first few games, they tooled me, but I had to come back and watch the ball the whole time," Grant said. "Coach kept saying good timing, good timing and that just pumped me up even more."
With Arkansas-Little Rock assistant coach Todd Bourdo in the stands to watch her, Janda led Heights with 11 kills and eight digs while junior setter Katie Shulte had 22 assists. Burden added nine kills and a team-high five blocks.
"They came out on the top end tonight, but next time I can promise you it will be different," Wiley said.
Temple def. Belton 25-18, 27-25, 25-22 - At Belton, despite winning both matches last year and having home-court advantage Tuesday night, Belton had nothing for bitter rival Temple as the Tem-Cats fended off multiple rallies for a big District 12-5A win.
Temple (12-17, 2-2 12-5A) took control early in the first game behind the superb serving of Lexi Smith. With the game tied at 15-15 and neither team able to seize control, the Tem-Cats scored on nine straight serves by Smith, with two blocks for kills by Brittani Cook.
As was the case for most of the night, the Lady Tigers (5-21, 1-3) fought back but were unable to overcome Temple's runs.