HARKER HEIGHTS — Neither coach was happy with the way her team performed when the final buzzer sounded Tuesday at Harker Heights gymnasium.
Harker Heights, however, emerged from the game with a 35-33 win and its second-place standing in District 8-5A safe.
But that still didn’t leave coach Shirretha Nelson happy afterwards after a disappointing effort following a loss to Copperas Cove last week.
“I was hoping we would regroup after (the loss to Cove), get in here and bust our butts, play hard and do what we know what to do,” Nelson said. “But today we act like we didn’t know what to do and how to run an offense or anything.”
Heights (16-6, 6-2 8-5A) scored seven points in each of the final three quarters and didn’t hit a field goal in the fourth until the final two minutes of the game.
But that was somehow enough to top Belton (8-13, 3-5), who entered the fourth quarter tied only to go scoreless for the first 5 minutes, 59 seconds.
The Lady Tigers then saw two potential go-ahead 3-pointers rim out in the final 40 seconds of the game, including a runner that Aubrianna Garcia nearly banked in from the top of the key in the final seconds of the game.
But Belton coach Brenda Gomez wasn’t concerned with the final sequence after the game.
“We didn’t block out like we should, we didn’t play defense as intense as we should and we didn’t take care of the ball,” Gomez said. “When you go against Harker Heights and you have the potential to wind up on top and you give it to them? They deserved everything that they got.
“Harker Heights played hard and we backed off.”
With a renewed emphasis on defense after the loss to Cove, Heights opened the game by forcing seven Belton turnovers in the first quarter while building a 14-7 lead.
But instead of busting the game open, the rest of the night was an uphill battle for Heights, who had just two field goals in the second quarter.
Yet the Lady Knights remained ahead, 21-18 at the half, thanks largely to senior Angela DeLaney, who started hot for the second consecutive game with 11 first-half points.
“It’s just my focus,” said DeLaney, who finished with 18 points to lead all scorers. “I know I’ve got to go in, work hard, put on for the team so that’s what I’ve been doing.”
Yet Belton continued to claw its way back into the game, eventually taking its first and only lead of the game on an Emily Hugo 3-pointer that put her team up 24-23 at the 5:37 mark in the third.
Heights scored five straight points before the teams remained became tied at 28 for the final 2:44 of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was a defensive slugfest as the teams tallied one point between them until Alexus Dukes hit a pair of free throws to put Heights up 31-28 with 4:15 to play.
The first field goal of the quarter didn’t come until Hugo got a steal and a layup to cut the lead to 33-30 at the 2:01 mark only for DeLaney to leak out on the ensuing possession for a layup on the other end.
McKinzie Robinson pulled Belton within 35-33 on a layup with 1:16 remaining in the game, but the Lady Tigers weren’t able to score again.
And while Heights was happy to have the win, the Lady Knights were also eager to improve before the schedule picks up again.
“We’ve got a very difficult game (at Killeen) on Friday,” Nelson said. “It is going to be a lot tougher than the game we played today. We’ve got to do better. But kudos to Belton, they came out and they gave us the business.”
Contact Jordan Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7562