TEMPLE — Entering a crucial final three games of the regular season, the importance of this last push isn’t lost on the Temple Tem-Cats.

A 20-point first quarter and four quarters of lock-down defense gave Temple a vital 43-27 victory over Harker Heights on Tuesday night in a District 8-5A game that tightened the middle of the league standings even more so.

“We played Tem-Cat defense from the first through the fourth quarters,”

Temple coach Tamarah Sanders said. “We know what’s at stake in these games.”

Tyesha Taylor, the Tem-Cats’ 6-3 post, made her presence felt all over the court with 12 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks in an intimidating performance.

“I’m just doing it with the help of my teammates,” said the New Mexico State signee. “We just push each other in everything we do and pick each other up.”

“As each game goes along she is getting in better shape and she sees what she needs to do and she’s been able to do a lot of it with her footwork,” Sanders said of Taylor.

The win vaulted Temple (10-17, 7-5) into a tie for second place with Heights (17-9, 7-5) and Killeen (16-14, 7-5). Temple split its season series against Heights and still has Copperas Cove (16-11, 6-6) and Killeen still to play. Ellison (23-7, 12-0) has clinched the title.

Temple came out in torrid fashion, going 10-of-14 from the field in the first quarter while Heights got nothing going and went 2-of-17 as the Tem-Cats built a 20-4 lead. Temple scored just 23 points in the final three quarters, but it was plenty.

“Temple played a great game,” Heights coach Shirretha Nelson said. “They did what they expected to do. Size is not our friend and we missed lots and lots of free throws. We gave up too much on defense and couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Taylor was dominant on both ends, pumping in eight points in the first frame. Temple also got a two buckets apiece from Jazzmen Ortiz and Alexis Garcia, plus baskets from Deja Williams and Natane Haywood as the Tem-Cats scored the final 10 points of the quarter.

Taylor and the rest of the Tem-Cats made Heights’ Angela Delaney, a Sam Houston State signee and summer ball teammate of Taylor, ineffective.

Delaney finished with just four points.

The Tem-Cats cooled off considerably from an offensive standpoint as Heights trimmed the gap to 26-14 by halftime.

Temple re-established its muscle in the third quarter by scoring the first seven points of the half on 3-pointers by Toriana President and Garcia sandwiched around a Taija Hall basket.

Alexus Dukes broke the scoreless string for Heights at the 2:41 mark of the quarter with a driving layup. Ortiz and Garcia had nine and eight points, respectively, in the Tem-Cats' balanced attack. Dukes finished with 11 to pace the Scarlet Knights.

“We stayed with our game plan,” Sanders said. “We ran through our offense and took it from there and stayed with our inside-outside game.”

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