TEMPLE — Kenesha Saygo called it.
Minutes after Temple came into her gym and dealt her Lady Eagles a 48-40 loss on Dec. 21, the Ellison senior captain didn’t mince words.
“I’m not mad, and I’m not worried, because when we go to Temple, we’re going to take it back to them,” she said five weeks ago. “Tonight they won, but in January, we are going to win.”
Saygo proved herself prophetic Friday, scoring 20 points as No. 15 Ellison knocked off the 13th-ranked Tem-Cats 67-43 in a surprisingly one-sided showdown with the District 8-5A lead on the line at Wildcat Gym.
“I love it that we were able to live up to our promise,” Saygo said. “We were so nervous in the first quarter, but after the first, coach (Sherry) McKinnon said that we got this.”
Saygo scored her team’s first seven points to go ahead 7-3 and the Lady Eagles (28-3, 10-1 8-5A) never trailed to move into a two-way tie with Temple (25-6, 10-1) atop the District 8-5A standings with three games remaining. Saygo also scored the last six points of the game, including a breakway layup as time expired.
Ellison outscored Temple 25-14 in the second quarter to take command, capped by a driving layup from Codi Simmons as time expired for a 34-21 halftime lead. The Lady Eagles clamped down on defense in the third quarter, holding the Tem-Cats without a field goal in the first 7:13 and building a 46-23 advantage after consecutive baskets by Simmons.
Making that declaration after their first meeting, Saygo delivered on it in Round 2 by shooting 6-for-10 from the field, 7-for-7 on free throws and reeling in three steals to send Ellison to its 12th consecutive win, dating back to that fateful loss Dec. 21. For Temple, the loss snapped its six-game win streak and its unbeaten run through 8-5A.
The Tem-Cats’ offense appeared to be out of rhythm most of the game. Ke’Tara Chapel had 19 points and Alyssa Jones added 15, but Temple shot 13-for-41 (31.7 percent) from the field.
And with Temple missing junior center Tyesha Taylor, the Lady Eagles commanded of the boards, outrebounding the Tem-Cats 34-16, anchored by a strong game from senior post Kaitlyn Shearer. Shearer scored 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting from the field and also had 12 rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We sold out on defense,” McKinnon said. “We had good help on defense and Kaitlyn did a good job to block or alter shots.”
McKinnon said Taylor’s absence was a big factor and motivated her team to attack on offense more often. Taylor missed her fourth consecutive game because of a knee injury suffered at Killeen two weeks ago. Taylor, who attended the game on crutches, had 12 second-half points and 12 rebounds on Dec. 21.
Temple coach Tamarah Sanders said her team’s perimeter defense didn’t execute as well as it normally does. Ellison shot 23-for-48 (47.9 percent), an impressive showing considering it’s common for the Tem-Cats to hold opponents to below 40 percent.
“We let their guards do too many things, things we didn’t let them do the last time,” Sanders said. “Our offense was off. Our defense was off and I don’t know why.”
Deja Pointer had nine points, seven rebounds and three steals for Ellison, which showed some sportsmanship before the game by presenting the injured Taylor with gifts that included a basketball with get-well-soon messages, candy and stuffed animals.
“We decided to do this as a team,” McKinnon said. “The girls on these teams communicate a lot through social media and they love each other. We feel awful that Tyesha is out indefinitely and we want her to get better soon.”