HARKER HEIGHTS — Dillon Gooding believes the game truly begins when the first half ends.

After scoring 14 of the contest’s opening 16 points against visiting Waco La Vega, Harker Heights’ offense began to stall. The Knights suffered through a lengthy second-quarter drought, scoring just two points through the first four minutes of the period.

The contrast did not concern Gooding, though, because he felt the outcome would be determined after halftime.

“The first three minutes of the third quarter always dictate the rest of the game for us,” Harker Heights’ senior said. “If we come out of halftime soft, then we end it soft, and if we come out intense, then we’ll go the rest like that.

“And that happened tonight.”

Four players accounted for team’s first four field goals of the third quarter as the Knights opened the third quarter with a 14-3 outburst before cruising to a 73-40 victory.

Following the win, Harker Heights head coach Celneque Bobbitt agreed his players’ collective attitude change at halftime prompted the 27-point third quarter.

“I talked to them about being selfish,” he said, “and they admitted they were being selfish.

“Once they started applying defensive pressure, it turned into offense and easy shots.”

The Knights held an early 17-3 advantage before going into the second quarter with a 19-8 lead, but Harker Heights’ cushion deflated to single digits, 21-12, after the Pirates scored four unanswered points.

And the contest remained in reach for La Vega for much of the period until the Knights scored seven of their 12 second-quarter points in the final two minutes of the period, giving them a 31-16 halftime lead.

Then, the run continued in the third quarter as Harker Heights’ advantage ballooned to 54-23.

“We really picked it up after halftime,” Knights junior Jarius Cherry said. “Coach talked to us, we picked the tempo up, and the scoring just took off.”

Paced by Gooding’s game-high 18 points and six steals, Harker Heights (6-5) finished with three double-digit scorers as Cherry and Ryan Chamberlain contributed 11 points apiece. Additionally, senior Randy Hughes scored eight points to go with seven rebounds for the Knights, who had a dozen players score in the win.

“It great that we have so many different options,” Cherry said. “You always need players who are reliable and you know can get a bucket or a defensive stop or just hustle at all times.”

The Knights will look to continue the success this weekend at the three-day Cypress tournament, beginning Thursday against Class 5A No. 1 Waxahachie.

Although Gooding is confident the beginning of the third quarter is a critical factor to Harker Heights’ performance, Bobbitt knows his team cannot afford to wait against the top-ranked Indians.

“We are starting out with a real barn burner,” he said. “It’s going to be really difficult for us out there with all the good teams we will be playing, but this is all preparing us for district.”

Contact Clay Whittington at clayw@kdhnews.com

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