Ashley Ousley plays defense. The Shoemaker senior loves it.
When Lady Grey Wolves coach Lori Shead asked her to slow down Harker Heights sophomore standout Alexus Dukes, Ousley jumped at the opportunity — Ousley finished with a team-high six steals Friday night.
But it was Ousley’s simple pull-up jumper at the end of the first half that sparked the Lady Grey Wolves to a 54-52 win over the Lady Knights at Shoemaker.
“After that shot, everybody was all right, everybody just wanted to win,” Ousley said.
“If you get steals, the offense will come. The defense is the key thing. Offenses sells tickes, defenses win games, so that’s what we did.”
Ousley’s shot gave Shoemaker (8-19, 2-9 8-5A) a 25-21 lead at halftime. Briana Gatson forced a Harker Heights turnover to start the second half and Daysha Roberts drilled a 3-pointer to cap a patient offensive series for a 28-21 lead early in the third.
“If that didn’t do anything else for us, it gave us confidence,” Shead said of the second-half start. “That’s something we’ve needed because we’ve just been beating a dead horse for about the past several games. ... I think that this was just great for them to understand what I’ve been telling them all along, ‘You can play, you just have to apply what we’ve been doing.’”
Cion Hicks hit key turnaround jump shots off the block midway through in the fourth after the Lady Knights (11-16, 3-8) rallied to cut the lead to two and Gatson went 3-for-4 from the free-throw line in the final 1:16 to give Shoemaker a 54-47 lead.
“They got a lot of inside looks — a little bit too many. Actually, a lot of looks that I wasn’t trying to give up. It’s just us miscommunicating, not really even communicating,” said Harker Heights coach Shirretha Nelson. “I think they gave them open opportunities that, typically, we’ve been pretty good at during the season, but tonight, we had a hard time taking care of those.”
Dukes hit a high-arching 3-pointer off the glass with nine seconds left to cut the lead to 54-50 and then made two free throws with one second left, but Hicks was able to cleanly inbound the ball to Gatson to snap the Lady Grey Wolves’ four-game district losing streak.
Angela Delaney led all scorers with 20 points, including 11 in the second half for Heights, which was playing without JaQuan Jackson for the fourth-straight game. Dukes finished with 19, 14 in the second half. Delaney also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Hicks led Shoemaker with 19 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, and seven rebounds. Gatson was the Lady Grey Wolves’ second-leading scorer with nine points.
Dukes scored the final five points of the first quarter to give the Lady Knights a 12-8 lead before Hicks made a pair of free throws with four seconds left to cut Shoemaker’s deficit to 12-10 going into the second quarter, where there was six ties and six lead changes.
Hicks made a layup with 1:02 left in the first half to give the Lady Grey Wolves’ their first lead of the period and Ousley’s buzzer-beating jumper followed after the teams traded missed shots.
Dukes and Delaney combined for 25 of the Lady Knights’ 31 points in the second half. Shoemaker led by as many as eight in the half, but Delaney was 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth to chip into the Lady Grey Wolves’ lead.