WACO — Alexus Dukes feels her team gained a lot by losing.
Harker Heights suffered a lopsided defeat Wednesday at Waco University High School, falling to the top-ranked team in the state in the opening round of the playoffs, but while the Lady Knights lost on the court, the junior guard feels the game was valuable nonetheless.
“When you are playing against the No. 1 team in Texas and the No. 2 team in the nation, you see where you stand and what you have to build on,” she said. “It was a good experience, especially for our freshmen and sophomores.”
The Duncanville Pantherettes were never threatened, cruising to an 83-30 win to earn the program’s 100th consecutive victory, while ending an otherwise successful season for the Lady Knights, who failed to reach the postseason last year.
Although the performance was not what Harker Heights head coach Shirretha Nelson hoped for, like Dukes, she drew positives from the experience.
“They got to play against the best team in Texas,” she said. “It doesn’t get any better than that. … I think this was a great opportunity for my young kids. I had sophomores out on the floor. I had a freshman that got solid minutes tonight, and playing time is irreplaceable.”
From the opening tip, however, it was clear the Lady Knights were outmatched.
Duncanville (30-0) jumped out to a 19-7 lead and held a 16-point advantage, 28-12, by the end of the first quarter, extending the gap to 39-12 midway through the second quarter. At halftime, the Pantherettes’ lead swelled to 45-18.
Things did not improve for Harker Heights in the second half as Duncanville scored 21 unanswered points, bridging the third and fourth quarters while limiting the Lady Knights to just four points in the final period.
Senior guard Angela DeLaney led Harker Heights in defeat, scoring a team-high 11 points.
Although it was a difficult way to end an impressive individual season, DeLaney said she would always cherish her time at Harker Heights.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “It has been a wonderful time playing with these girls. I love them all to death. They worked hard, and we improved from last year’s season, so there is a lot I can be thankful for.”
The Lady Knights went 11-19 overall in 2013, finishing District 8-5A play with a 3-11 record. One year later, however, they virtually flipped their win-loss totals, ending the 2014 season with an 18-11 record.
For Nelson, the season-ending loss does not take anything away from her team’s accomplishments.
“I’m very proud of them, especially after the season we had last year,” she said. “I’m glad our seniors had a chance to go to the playoffs. That is what every team strives for. We were up and down last year, so it is a nice reward this year.”
Dukes, who finished with six points, is not satisfied.
“This is my second time to the playoffs, and when I was a freshman, we made it to the third round,” she said. “Being a junior now, and getting knocked out in the first round, when you compare the two, I see we lost to teams that played hard with a lot of discipline, and we need to go in that direction.”