HARKER HEIGHTS — While the final score won’t show how close God’s Academy was to Harker Heights in the Lady Knights’ 57-47 win Tuesday, it also won’t show how Heights adjusted to the Lady Ambassadors’ physical style of play just in time to avoid an upset.
After being outrebounded in the first half, Heights (7-2) turned the tables in the second half, outrebounding the Lady Ambassadors by seven to win the battle on the glass and, ultimately, the game.
“We started putting bodies on people, started rebounding with two hands — it made a difference in the game,” Heights coach Shirretha Nelson said. “We got second shot opportunities in that second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Lady Knights also turned the pressure up on defense, recording 14 steals, led by seven from junior Alexus Dukes.
“That’s just pure hustle,” said Dukes, who also had 14 points. “I knew we needed the ball so I just kept going for it.”
The game looked to be a blowout in the opening minutes as Dukes scored the Lady Knights’ first seven points, part of a 7-1 run.
Heights ended the first quarter up 11-3 as the Lady Ambassadors had more turnovers (7) than points in the frame.
But the second quarter was a different story as God’s Academy (5-5) began getting second opportunities while cleaning up the glass on the defensive end as Heights struggled to hit shots.
The Lady Ambassadors chipped away at the lead until they took their first lead of the game at 16-15 on a slashing drive to the basket by Ania Henderson with 3:52 remaining in the half.
Heights senior Angela DeLaney responded with her own drive on the next possession to put Heights back up and later hit two free throws in the final minute to give Heights a 23-21 halftime lead.
DeLaney nearly single-handedly kept Heights in a game that was hanging in the balance until the final two minutes of the third, when the Lady Knights ripped off a 7-0 run.
“I felt like Angela was trying to keep us under control,” Nelson said.
“She was trying to keep our composure and keep us where we were supposed to be, and we started to turn the corner.”
DeLaney finished with a game-high 15 points while Dukes ignited the key run with a rainbow 3-pointer for a 36-30 lead at the 1:16 mark.
Dukes’ steal and assist to Brianna McGee put the Lady Knights up 40-30 at the end of the third as Heights began looking like the team that opened the game with a fast start.
“End of the game, we just game back together as a team, started playing as a whole, got our defense back together,” Dukes said.
Jada Evans was also key to the Heights rally, scoring all 11 of her points in the second half.
“She was the game changer for us tonight,” Nelson said of Evans.
So, while the game was closer than the Lady Knights may have expected early on, Nelson was pretty happy with the way her team responded to adversity to make it not close again in the end.