TEMPLE — The Temple Wildcats shot 58 percent for the game and made all 10 of their free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to stave off Harker Heights’ late comeback attempt, 69-66, and snap their six-game losing streak.
The Knights went 9-of-17 over the final 8 minutes, including 5-of-8 from 3-point territory, but the Wildcats got eight points from Kiantre Haynes and clutch free throws by J’Don Garcia and Elcid Smith in the fourth quarter to win their third district contest of the season.
“It’s been a long five-, six-game stretch for us. We’ve been battling injuries but we were able to find an offensive spark and score more points,” said Temple coach Michael Thomas, whose team led 32-24 at halftime. “Anytime we win a game it feels good.”
Elcid Smith led Temple (9-15, 3-5 12-6A) with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while Lathyn Castilleja and Gage Smith added 12 points each. Haynes finished with 11 points, rounding out Temple’s four double-figure scorers.
Jarius Cherry scorched Temple with 33 points, including 12 in the third quarter and 10 in the fourth. Terrence Caiker scored all 10 of his points after halftime, providing Harker Heights (9-13, 1-6) an offensive boost down the stretch.
Temple led 48-39 entering the fourth quarter and stretched the lead to 10, 61-51, following a corner 3-pointer by Gage Smith with 3:15 left. Cherry responded with a 3-pointer and made a pair of free throws. Caiker then made a layup to cap a 7-0 run to make it 61-58 with 1:30 left.
Free throws by Haynes, Garcia and Elcid Smith were answered with a 3 by Matthias Nero, a layup from Cherry and a 3 by Jalen Flowers for Harker Heights that made it 67-66 with 7 seconds remaining. Quentin Johnston converted a pair of free throws to put Temple up by three and Nero missed the game-tying 3 as time expired, securing Temple’s first home victory since its 65-57 win over Belton on Dec. 11.
“(Making free throws) was big for us, because we haven’t been shooting free throws well this year,” Thomas said. “This is a good confidence win for the program, but now we got to put it behind us and look to Shoemaker on Friday.”
TUESDAY'S 12-6A BOYS
- Belton 58, Copperas Cove 53
- Temple 69, Harker Heights 66
- Waco 60, No. 16 Ellison 46
- Waco Midway 66, Killeen 51