GATESVILLE — Moments after Salado’s 40-34 road win over Gatesville on Friday night, Lady Eagles forward Ashley Adams was flashing a mile-wide smile.
“When the pressure is on like tonight, Salado will come through,” she said.
After starting this season 0-2, the Lady Eagles have won four consecutive contests.
“Our team is like a family now,” said Adams. “We’re so close.”
Up 28-19 at halftime, Salado handcuffed Gatesville in the third quarter, employing an intense, up-tempo, half-court, man-to-man defense. Gatesville had only one field goal and four points total in that pivotal third quarter.
“We wanted to pick them up at half-court because we felt we could create some turnovers,” said Adams. “Overall, we played really solid defense.”
Teammate Taryn Kornegay had another explanation for the Lady Eagles’ suffocating third quarter defense.
“Well,” said Kornegay with a good-natured chuckle, “our coach kind of got on our butts at halftime about picking up the intensity in that third quarter and so that’s what we did. When our coach does that, we like to pick things up.”
It was Kornegay’s off-balance 24-foot off-the-glass trey which ignited Salado in the first quarter. That eye-popping shot gave Salado a 9-4 lead with 2:29 left in the frame.
“I always seem to make my 3-pointers when I’m off-balance,” said Kornegay. “I always think those type of shots will be airballs but, somehow, they go in.”
Up 16-8 after the initial frame, Gatesville center Kayla McGiboney retaliated with a sensational second quarter, tallying 10 points — which included four close-range field goals of the you’re-not-stopping-me variety.
“Our guards were feeding me the ball with some good passes and then I just did what my coaches told me to do,” said McGiboney, who had a game-high 15 points.
“The key for Kayla was that she was aggressive,” said Gatesville head coach Chris Carroll. “She shot 63 percent from the field for us tonight. But, overall, as a team we shot the ball under 30 percent. We turned the ball over almost 30 times. We went to the line 31 times and we only hit 14 of them. It’s hard to beat good people with all of that working against us.
“Salado played hard. Salado played harder than us. That’s a good team and I’m not taking anything away from them. But if we could have taken care of the basketball, hit some easy shots, hit over 50 percent of our free throws, I felt like we could have gotten what we wanted out of tonight.”
Salado led 34-23 after three quarters and gave up only one field goal in the final frame. Gatesville never got closer than a six-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
For Gatesville (4-4), Randi Farney scored five points and Meghan Haferkamp four.
Adams and Kornegay shared team-high scoring honors for Salado with 10 apiece. Also for Salado, Sarah Kelarek had eight points, and Peyton Dreitz and Carmella Perez each scored five.
“I told our girls that tonight would be a physical game and it was,” said Salado head coach Diane Konarik. “Their team showed toughness and my girls played tough right back. It was a fun, good game.
“The reason we were successful with our half-court man-to-man defense is because we’ve been working on it and working on it.”
Konarik was also pleased with the poise and floor game provided by Kornegay.
“Taryn Kornegay is my team captain, one of my key leaders,” said Konarik. “She’s calm and collected in crunch time and that’s what we needed out of her tonight and she delivered that for us.”
As for Adams, Konarik said, “She’s a feisty one. She’s a fighter. Last year, she was my defensive specialist and tonight I was pleased to see her doing her usual stuff — rebounding, stealing and playing excellent defense.”
Contact Allan Mandell at email@example.com or 254-501-7566