Sherry McKinnon sensed it — something was not right.
After having Tuesday’s state-ranked showdown with Class 6A No. 19 Waco Midway postponed, Ellison returned to the court a day later in search of extending its unblemished District 8-6A record.
But it did not happen.
The No. 8 Lady Eagles led only once all contest en route to a 43-41 defeat, and Ellison’s head coach admitted she knew her team was not focused.
“There were just a lot of distractions,” McKinnon said, “and those things can affect young people. Personally, I don’t feel I prepared them enough.
“I could just feel that we weren’t ready.”
It showed from the opening tip.
The Pantherettes recorded the game’s first eight points before taking a 20-10 advantage into the second quarter, but Ellison (17-8, 7-1) responded, limiting Midway to just two points for the duration of the half.
Then, in the third period, the Lady Eagles finally took control as junior guard Marliah Johnson’s baseline layup gave Ellison a 23-22 lead. Moments later, the cushion inflated to 26-22 as senior post Cielo McClain punctuated Ellison’s 16-2 outburst with a basket in the paint.
The lead quickly evaporated, though, as the Pantherettes (24-4, 6-2) scored five unanswered points, and never trailed again.
“Midway really, really wanted this game,” McKinnon said, “and those girls played their hearts out.
“We got outplayed, and that’s just the bottom line and the end of the story.”
After trailing 41-33 with less than two minutes remaining in regulation, the Lady Eagles rallied behind Sydney Brock’s 3-pointer and four consecutive points from McClain to pull within 41-40.
But the comeback attempt fell short after McClain missed the second of two free throws with two seconds remaining, allowing Pantherettes sophomore Reese Rhodes to secure the victory with a rebound.
The loss spoiled a 23-point, 12-rebound double-double for McClain, who was complemented by Brock’s 11 points and eight rebounds, but the duo received little help offensively with the remainder of the roster accounting for a combined seven points.
Despite the defeat, the Lady Eagles remain alone atop the district standings thanks to Belton’s 58-52 road upset at No. 21 Copperas Cove, and while McKinnon would preferred to avoid the loss, she believes it can be beneficial.
“I think this is going to give us a new focus,” McKinnon said, “and now we know how tough things are going to be in the second round.”
- Belton 58, No. 21 Copperas Cove 52
- Harker Heights 54, Killeen 45
- San Angelo Central 39, Shoemaker 34
- No. 19 Waco Midway 43, No. 7 Ellison 41
- Ellison at San Angelo Central, 6 p.m.
- Copperas Cove at Waco Midway, 7 p.m.
- Harker Heights at Belton, 7 p.m.
- Shoemaker at Killeen, 7 p.m.