TEMPLE — Betting against the Temple Tem-Cats with a game on the line isn’t the best wager for an oddsmaker these days.
Down 36-26 to start the fourth quarter, the Tem-Cats exploded for 22 points in the final eight minutes to overtake Killeen, 48-44, Friday night at Wildcat Gym to move them into a tie for third as the first half of District 8-5A comes to an end.
Temple (7-15, 4-3) is now knotted with Killeen (13-12, 4-3) behind Ellison and Harker Heights with seven games to go.
It didn’t come easy.
“Our girls play with a lot of heart,” said Temple coach Tamarah Sanders. “I’ve had other people tell me that in my six years this isn’t the same team we used to be, but they play to the end.”
Indeed, the Tem-Cats appeared to be fading by the end of the third quarter. The Lady Kangaroos outscored them 13-6 in that frame. But when the switch flipped to the fourth, the Tem-Cats turned it on.
Temple ran off eight straight with Toriana President turning back-to-back steals into five quick points. Deja Williams hit a high-arcing shot off the glass and Tyesha Taylor hit a free throw to move the Tem-Cats within two, 36-34.
Temple finally drew even with the Lady Roos with the aid of an Alexis Garcia trey and a Williams putback made it 40-40 with 3:26 remaining.
The Tem-Cats didn’t stop there. Taylor connected on a 15-foot bank shot at the 2:27 mark to give Temple its first lead since late in the first half. Buckets by Taylor and Williams gave the Tem-Cats a 46-40 advantage.
“We wanted to get that tie for third place,” Williams said. “This team never gives up.”
Tia Hairston hit Killeen’s first fourth-quarter field goal with 1:07 to go and Keaunna Johnson added two free throws to pull within two, 46-44, with 42 seconds left. Williams converted one free throw for a three-point spread.
The Lady Roos had a shot to tie, but Shianne Johnson’s three-point attempt bounced on the rim a few times before trickling off. Taylor added a free throw with less than a second to go for the four-point difference.
“We turned the ball over too much and missed a lot of shots around that basket that would have given us a bigger lead,” Killeen coach Latisha Williams said. “We’re playing on the road and you never know what’s going to happen. We played hard until we hit a stretch where we went haywire.”
The game opened in aggressive fashion with 15 fouls called in the first quarter. The Lady Roos lived at the line in the first half, going 12-of-21 from the stripe compared to Temple’s 1-of-5. The lead changed hands seven times in the second quarter with Killeen getting the halftime edge, 23-20.
“Everybody on our bench had to play and they kept us where we needed to be,” Sanders said.
Garcia paced the balanced Tem-Cat scorers with 11 points followed by 10 for Taylor and nine off the bench for Williams, all in the second half. Killeen’s Hairston led all scorers with 13.
Killeen travels to Copperas Cove on Tuesday.