BELTON — Throughout her high school career, Tyesha Taylor has been a consistent presence and contributor for the Temple Tem-Cats.
Saturday afternoon she provided the Tem-Cats with a career game when they needed it most.
Taylor, the Tem-Cats 6-3 senior post, pumped in 31 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to help Temple pull away from Harker Heights, 64-51, in a district playoff at Belton’s Tiger Gym to determine the third and fourth seeds from District 8-5A.
Temple (12-19) will take on Mansfield Timberview in a bi-district playoff game Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Whitney in what will be the first part of a doubleheader. The second half features 8-5A champion Ellison against South Grand Prairie. Heights (18-11) will meet No. 1 Duncanville on Tuesday at 7:30 at Hill College in Hillsboro.
Temple outscored Heights 40-25 in the second half to grab the victory that helped ease the pain of Tuesday’s disappointing loss to Killeen and avoid Duncanville.
“We had a great second half that we didn’t have on Tuesday that we wouldn’t have had to go through all of this,” said Temple coach Tamarah Sanders. “We fought through some adversity and came out great.”
Temple’s loss to Killeen forged a three-way tie for second. Killeen won the coin flip to get the second-place seed and escape a playoff.
Heights’ junior guard Alexus Dukes led a Lady Knight charge at the Tem-Cats. She scored seven points in a rapid 9-2 run to get the Lady Knights within three, 51-48. Temple calmed that flurry with baskets from Jazzmen Ortiz, Deja Williams and Taylor. Dukes finished with a team-high 22 points.
“We just weren’t in it offensively,” said Heights coach Shirretha Nelson.
“When we needed to (make 3’s) we were coming up short. We started shooting them too late.”
Taylor dominated inside and also went 7 of 8 from the free throw line before fouling out with 10 seconds left. The high-low post game with Williams was a winner for the Tem-Cats.
“We’ve been practicing that all week and it really worked,” said Taylor, a New Mexico State signee. “That’s the best game I’ve ever had.”
She had ample help from perimeter players like Ortiz and Alexis Garcia, who combined for six 3-pointers. Ortiz finished with 21 points with four triples.
Temple trailed 26-24 at halftime. Only Taylor and Ortiz contributed points in the first half.
But it was back-to-back treys from Garcia, who had been quiet in the first half in the third quarter that gave the Tem-Cats the spark they needed to capture the lead and never relinquish it. Her second 3 made it 34-33 at the 4:40 mark and the Tem-Cats never trailed again after being behind most of the first half. Temple carried a 43-39 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I felt our momentum change after that,” Garcia said. “I just decided to keep shooting and get through (a slump).”
The Tem-Cats extended the lead to 49-39 to start the fourth with two Taylor buckets and free throws from Natane Haywood.
The game was originally set for Friday night, but was moved to Saturday afternoon due to hazardous weather.