Faster does not always equal better.
For three quarters, Killeen tried to do much too quickly, according to head coach Latisha Williams. The third quarter proved to be the lone period the Lady Kangaroos moved at an appropriate pace for team comprised of nine underclassmen, and the change in tempo created momentum.
But it was not enough.
After an offensively anemic first quarter helped sink Killeen into a 23-6 hole, the Lady Kangaroos rebounded against Class 3A No. 2 La Vega behind a 18-point third quarter before lapsing back into their hectic ways and losing 58-41.
“It was one of those things where we would steal the ball, and then we’d turn it right back over,” Williams said of the fourth quarter. “It is stuff like that (that makes me want to yell), ‘Settle down! Just settle down!’ It is not like they aren’t playing hard. They just need to slow it down, protect the ball, and do the little things. We just haven’t got there yet.”
Almost nothing went right for the Lady Kangaroos in the opening quarter.
Keaunna Johnson’s offensive rebound and putback accounted for Killeen’s first points of the game, concluding a string of five consecutive misses, but it was only the beginning the Lady Kangaroos’ shooting woes.
Killeen (3-5) did not make another field goal in the quarter, missing 13 of 14 shots to create a 15-4 deficit entering the second quarter. Another 65 seconds elapsed off the clock before Ghiniva Phillips’ basket ended the drought temporarily.
La Vega (8-0) responded with six unanswered points, increasing its cushion to 23-6, and the dismal offensive start sent the Lady Kangaroos’ spirits spiraling before an 8-0 run reenergized the roster as it cut the Lady Pirates’ lead to nine points, 23-14.
“(It was hard) to get out of that funk,” Williams said. “I thought we battled back, which is good. It is always a good thing to see that they didn’t just fall apart after a really bad first quarter. They continued to fight.”
Despite their efforts, Killeen went into halftime trailing 27-14 after missing 19 of 23 field goal attempts and turning the ball over 14 times.
Things changed, however, in the third quarter.
Led by Keaunna Johnson, who scored six of her eight points in the period, the Lady Kangaroos charged at La Vega, pulling within seven points, 39-32, heading into the fourth quarter.
Killeen made half of its shots (8 of 16), including two 3-pointers, with five field goals being assisted as six players contributed offensively.
It was exactly what Williams wanted.
“They were confident, they slowed it down, and they played well and played together at that point,” she said.
“But as soon as we start rushing, taking off balance shots that have no chance of going in, and we get beat back on defense, then stuff goes wrong because we tried to rush. We have to learn to slow it down and play our game.”
The Lady Pirates’ lead shrank to four points, 40-36, following a pair of free throws by Shianne Johnson with 6:17 left in the game, but Killeen would not get any closer.
La Vega answered with a 18-5 run, holding the Lady Kangaroos, who made 3 of 12 shots in the fourth quarter, without a field goal for the final two minutes.
Four players — Keaunna Johnson, Shianne Johnson, Raven Ringo and Ceida Williams — finished with eight points for Killeen, while Keaunna Johnson and Williams both recorded double-digit rebounding performances with 11 and 10, respectively.
While the outcome was disappointing, Williams believes her players can learn from the experience.
“We can play with people, but we’ve got to be able to execute more and more consistently,” she said. “That is the issue we are facing right now, and a lot of that has to do with inexperience and age, but at some point, we can’t use that (as an excuse).”