Much like the smiles on their faces afterward, the Killeen girls believe they’re back.
Closing it out with a 6-for-6 showing from the charity stripe in the final minute, the Lady Roos held off hard-charging Harker Heights and bounced back from a district-opening loss to Copperas Cove on Tuesday to sink the rival Lady Knights 52-49 on Friday.
“They’re smiling, we haven’t been smiling in a while, so we really, really needed this one,” said Killeen coach Latisha Williams.
With the Heights bench charged up after junior guard Angela Delaney nailed a desperation 3-pointer with just under four seconds left, it was Killeen freshman Tia Harston who slammed the door shut, nailing all four of her fourth-quarter free throws, including the final two with 1.3
seconds left in the game to secure the win.
The Lady Knights tried to push the ball up the court for another desperation heave, but couldn’t even get the ball in bounds cleanly before the buzzer sounded to send Heights to its first District 8-5A loss of the season and Killeen to its first win.
“Coach told us before the game that this was the most important game of our lives because we couldn’t go 0-2, so we needed this win big time,” said Lady Roos senior forward Jasmine Goodwine, who’s signed with Rice.
Added fellow senior Esha Atkins: “It feels great, we’ve lost to them two years in a row, and to win ... we proved everybody wrong.”
Killeen (9-6, 1-1 8-5A) dominated the paint, outrebounding Heights 31-20, including 21 defensive boards.
Making their presence felt, Atkins and Goodwine controlled things from the inside, with Goodwine shooting 7-of-12 from the paint for a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds, eight on the defensive end. Atkins also had a double-double with 15 points and 11 boards.
“Both of them stepped up. I know they wanted to win really bad,” Williams said.
Helping the Lady Roos was the inability of Lady Knights (6-7, 1-1) senior captain JaQuan Jackson to stay on the floor for long stretches. Matched up against Goodwine defensively early, Jackson was called for a pair of quick fouls against Goodwine early in the first quarter and then was hit with her third foul 30 seconds into the second quarter.
“I was kind of surprised she was guarding me because she’s a guard, but we are two D-I athletes so I just wanted to go inside more because I had a better advantage in the box,” Goodwine said. “I felt like I could post her up and get some points from there.”
Jackson, who is usually Heights go-to scorer, finished with just 11 points after fouling out with 5:26 left in the game on a charge coming on a fast-break layup off a steal.
“It hurt us quite a bit to not have her in the game,” said Heights coach Shirretha Nelson. “But ... we have other kids that I think can contribute and get overlooked, and tonight we showed that.”
Added Williams: “That definitely helps, and I’m not mad about it at all.”
Dukes picked up the offensive slack in Jackson’s absence, scoring eight of her team-high 18 points in the second quarter after Jackson took a seat. Delaney and post Patience Gitau added nine points apiece for Heights.
Killeen pulled ahead 31-22 on a 6-2 run to open the third quarter, but Gitau scored on back-to-back possessions, Dukes nailed a deep 3-pointer with 2½ minutes left and Gitau tied it at 31-31 with a pull-up jumper with 51.5 seconds remaining in the frame.
But Heights didn’t get any closer as Atkins put back a miss by Raven Ringo with 31 seconds left and then Killeen fended off the Lady Knights’ late charge from the free-throw line.
“That’s great to see that mentality, because easily the way we’ve been playing, people could have just crumbled,” Williams said.