BELTON — Ellison head coach Sherry McKinnon had seen enough.On one knee in front of her players in between the third and fourth quarter Thursday, last year’s Texas Association of Basketball Coaches’ Class 5A coach of the year did the unthinkable — she challenged her No. 12-ranked Lady Eagles’ heart.

“I just challenged them for the heart to come out,” McKinnon said.Whatever she said worked as Ellison outscored 4A Waco 10-0 in the final frame and pulled out its second comeback victory 37-31 during pool play at the Chisholm Trail Tournament at Belton.

The Lady Eagles (3-0), who face San Antonio Brandeis at 10 a.m. today with an opportunity to advance to the Gold Bracket, also needed a furious 18-6 effort in the fourth quarter and an overtime period to beat 4A No. 19 Bryan Rudder 55-50 earlier Thursday.

“They’re going to do what they have to do to win,” McKinnon said. “So I have a lot of confidence in them in that situation. They have enough heart that they’re going to pull it out.”

Late-game heroics were necessary for several area teams in the tournament, as No. 25 Harker Heights (3-0) needed a strong fourth-quarter showing to hold off Round Rock in a 43-32 win. The Lady Knights, who play San Antonio Sam Houston at 10 a.m. today for the top seed in Pool D, also went 2-0 on the day with an early morning 58-26 throttling of Pflugerville Connally.

Host Belton split its two pool games, coming back with a 20-13 fourth-quarter rally for its first victory in new coach Brenda Gomez’s tenure, 53-48 over Austin LBJ. Senior guard Torie Henderson led the Lady Tigers (1-2) with 26 combined points, including 16 against LBJ, followed by 22 from Briana Raglan and 19 from sophomore Emily Hugo.

Against Waco, the Lady Eagles struggled with too many missed baskets, too many missed assignments on defense, and too many mistakes. They trailed much of the third quarter before entering the final frame down 31-27.

“We just did some silly things on defense and offense, we just weren’t playing our type of basketball,” McKinnon said.

But Alayshia Hunter put back an Kanetria Cutris miss 52 seconds into the fourth, and followed with a steal and pass to a streaking Ocleta Young for a fast-break bucket to tie it at 31-all a minute later. Kanesha Saygo forced Waco’s sixth turnover in the first three minutes and converted an open layup to put Ellison ahead 33-31.

Young, who finished with a game-high 10 points, added her second three-pointer of the game with 2:22 left to seal it as the Lady Eagles didn’t allow Waco any second opportunities, out rebounding the Lady Lions 13-5 in the fourth.

In the earlier game, Rudder jumped ahead 36-28 with a 19-10 fourth quarter, forcing Ellison to battle back, outscoring the Lady Rangers 13-6 to force overtime. Once there, the Lady Eagles shut out Rudder 5-0 in the extra period.

Despite spotty play during long stretches against Round Rock, Harker Heights only actually trailed twice, and never for very long.

“We struggled from the beginning of the game, I just think it was hard for us to find ourselves,” Heights coach Shirretha Nelson said. “Things just weren’t working — defensively or offensively — at the beginning.”

Tied at 22-all with 2 1/2 minutes left in the third, junior guard JaQuan Jackson returned from a twisted ankle earlier in the game to put the Lady Knights back on top for the final time, 24-22, putting back a miss with a fancy mid-air windmill layup with 48 seconds remaining.

Senior guard Brianna Golden capped the quarter with a buzzer-beating off-balance jumper for a 26-22 advantage.

The Lady Dragons pulled within one (29-28) midway through the fourth, but Jackson added another putback for a 31-28 lead before fellow junior Brianna Freeman (team-high 15 points and 12 rebounds) closed out the game scoring nine of Heights’ final 12 points.

“One of biggest things was getting our posts back into the game to make a difference, and once (Freeman) got back into the game, it started to separate us quite a bit,” Nelson said.


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