HARKER HEIGHTS — It’s been a roller coaster season for Shirretha Nelson and her Harker Heights basketball team.
The Lady Knights (11-17, 3-9 8-5A) have lost players due to injury, most notably senior JaQuan Jackson, and four more players were deemed ineligible due to grades.
“We’ve had so much turnover (with our roster) that these girls haven’t really played together,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to gain any (continuity) when the team changes so much.”
And it all came to a head in Tuesday night’s 57-37 loss to No. 13 Temple.
“The constant change affects the way we play because sometimes I have to ask them to do things they don’t usually do,” Nelson said.
Like Angela Delaney.
The junior guard drew the toughest assignment — covering senior Mississippi State signee KeTara Chapel, whose wing-span stretches her to over 6-foot-4 — and, at times, it gave her fits.
Chapel led all players with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Delaney scored 13 and added seven boards.
“Delaney’s our tallest player so I asked her to do her best and she did,” Nelson said.
Chapel led the way but it was senior Rykeya Johnson who stole the show.
Johnson had 10 points to go with six steals and four assists. During the second quarter Johnson had back-to-back steals for easy layups that put the Tem-Cats (26-6, 11-1) up 20-7 with under five minutes remaining in the quarter.
“She doesn’t get as much attention as she rightfully deserves,” Temple coach Tamarah Sanders said. “She does all the little things that help our team go. She is such a huge part in what we do.”
Temple’s defense stifled the Lady Knights all night as the Tem-Cats totaled 18 steals.
“We know what we’re supposed to do — but we didn’t do it,” Nelson said. “We play Temple every year and we know to expect that kind of defense — they have really quick hands.”
Temple held Heights without a field goal for more than five minutes during the first quarter. During the streak the Tem-Cats built a 14-2 lead. Delaney scored back-to-back buckets in the last 20 seconds to close the gap 16-6.
“I tell the girls that we can learn from all of this and it can make us better players for next year,” Nelson said. “They play in a tough district where every night they play against a Division-I recruit.
“I know that (Delaney), like all our returners for next year, will benefit from these lessons and I expect us to grow from it and become better players and leaders.”