By Alex Byington
Harker Heights Herald
With a chance to lock up its first playoff berth in three years, Harker Heights had a bad case of the Mondays.
"It's Monday. Nobody likes Mondays," junior guard Shanice Davis said. "It's like that 'just-getting-done-playing' day, after we just lost to Ellison (on Friday) and we just came back to try and regroup ... and we didn't even know if we were going to play or not."
Despite having the game moved up a day due to incoming inclement weather, the Lady Knights rallied from a sluggish first half and outscored Bryan 15-3 over the first 5¼ minutes of the third quarter for the 54-44 victory at home.
"We were just going through the motions, really not doing anything," Heights third-year coach Shirretha Nelson said. "I don't know if its because today was supposed to be an off-day or we're not used to playing on Mondays, but to me, those are just excuses."
The victory, coupled with Copperas Cove's 72-65 loss to A&M Consolidated, assured second-place Heights (23-9, 9-3 District 12-5A) its first playoff berth since 2008, the last year under former coach Lisa Hess.
"It's amazing, oh my gosh, I've been waiting for this day," said Davis, who led with 14 points. "... You just can't describe the feeling - it's just 'Yes!'
"I'm going to walk around with a smile on my face all day."
Sophomore guard JaQuan Jackson also had 14 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, while senior post Bianca Patterson scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter. Bryan was led with 19 points from senior post Amanda Lawson.
"We're excited, how can you not be excited," Nelson said of her first playoff berth as a head coach. "... Just being among the top in our district, it's a blessing."
Trailing last-place Bryan (8-22, 1-11) 24-22 at halftime, Davis hit a pull-up jumper 15 seconds into the third, and Heights' got its transition game going thanks to several Lady Vikings turnovers.
"We were just really trying to get them to pick up the ball off the dribble," Nelson said, "And that's what led to the turnovers because they'd pick the ball up outside on the perimeter where they weren't comfortable, and that gave us the opportunity to get a steal and transition for the layup."
After Bryan guard Jessica Williams-Smith connected on a 3-pointer to pull ahead for the final time, 27-26, with 6:41 left in the third, the Lady Knights finally took advantage, scoring the next 11 straight points.
Ellison 45, Harker Heights 36 (Jan. 28) - With a rousing fourth quarter, the Lady Eagles defeated Heights to claim sole possession of first place in District 12-5A.
The Lady Eagles (25-6, 9-2) are not only alone in first place now, they also clinched a playoff spot with the win.
"It feels amazing. Our team worked so hard for this and it feels good to be able to say that," said senior post Jalissa Williams, who led Ellison with 12 points and eight rebounds.
Tied at 31-31 entering the fourth quarter, Williams hit two free throws to begin a 9-0 run and Deja Pointer capped it off with a high-arcing 3-pointer.
Heights, meanwhile, only scored one field goal in the quarter, a putback by Eboniey Jeter, who led the Lady Knights (22-9, 8-3) with nine points and 13 rebounds.
Ellison 55, Belton 32 (Monday) - At Belton, already assured a playoff spot, the Lady Eagles outscored the host Tigers 18-11 in the second to pull away.
With four players scoring at least eight points, led with 10 from junior post Alayshia Hunter, District 12-5A leading Ellison (26-6, 10-2) will now look to lock up the district title Friday against second-place Temple.
Meghan Braeuer led Belton (9-23, 1-11), which scored just 11 points in the second half, with 14 points.
Temple 77, Belton 46 (last Friday) - At Temple, Braeuer led the Lady Tigers with 24 points, but it wasn't enough as Belton fell on the road.
Temple (24-8, 8-3 12-5A) held Belton (9-22, 1-10) to single-digit scoring in the first and third quarters, outscoring the Lady Tigers 47-26 in the second half.
Salado 53, Llano 15 (Tuesday) - Hadley Joiner scored nine of her 30 points during a 26-2 Lady Eagles run stretch for their third win in the last five games.
"We've been waiting for that Hadley all year and, I think, it's finally starting to jell, hopefully, right when we need it," Salado coach Jeanette McKinney said. "It's coming down to the nitty-gritty, obviously, and we're fighting for a playoff berth. It couldn't happen at a better time."
The run began with a three-point play by Jenna Sebek with 2:33 left in the second and finished with Alexis Bowman's buzzer-beating 3 - assisted by Joiner - at the end of the third quarter.
Salado (14-12, 5-3 25-3A) led by 30 going into the fourth, where Joiner continued to dominate. The senior scored all of the Lady Eagles' 12 final-quarter points.
Joiner also had 10 rebounds, eight steals - including five in the third quarter - and three assists.
Salado 68, Taylor 25 (last Friday)- At Taylor, Hadley Joiner hit three 3-pointers and led with 25 points, Jenna Sebek added 18 and the Lady Eagles got back in the District 25-3A playoff race.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566.