Longtime Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon needed less than a minute to realize something was amiss with her squad.
But despite a timeout 58 seconds into the game, the host Lady Eagles were uncharacteristically sloppy and turnover-prone as A&M Consolidated built a double-digit lead midway through the opening quarter and knocked off the defending District 12-5A champions with a 58-43 victory Friday. "I saw there that we were in trouble with the things we were doing, breakdowns on defense," McKinnon said. "I was trying to get some (different) personnel in there thinking they'd get the job done, but (A&M) outplayed us from the first to the fourth quarter. We were just beaten the team that played the hardest tonight won, and that was A&M."
A physical game throughout, including a combined 38 fouls called (26 on Ellison), emotions boiled over during the post-game handshake when Consolidated's Tierra Tucker made contact with Ellison post Alaysia Hunter, prompting a brief shoving skirmish between both teams that was broken up by coaches and players.
"Somebody touched one of my players and that's unacceptable, because they've been told we're never going to touch (other players) and I won't have that," McKinnon said. "We're going to let the business be done on the court and whichever team has the highest score wins.
"I can 100 percent tell you it'll never happen again."
A&M Consolidated coach Karen Heintz acknowledged this was an out-of-character game by both sides.
"I could tell this wasn't a classic Ellison game," Heintz said. "I think so much of Sherry McKinnon that I'm so sorry ... that our kids let something get in the way."
Nothing seemed to get in the way of A&M sophomore guard Blair Schaefer, who lit up the scoreboard for 25 points including three 3-pointers in the second quarter that extinguished an Ellison rally attempt.
"That's pretty sad for us to allow a player to score 25 points against us," McKinnon said. "I really don't have an answer we looked horrible, we didn't look good and we didn't look like Lady Eagles. ... We didn't play hard, the heart and everything that we're known for just wasn't there."
With the Lady Tigers already ahead 22-10 entering the second quarter, Schaefer's second 3-pointer stretched the lead to a game-high 17, 29-12, with less than four minutes remaining before halftime.
Ellison senior guard Ocleta Young ended the team's 0-for-5 start from outside with her first 3-pointer on the next possession and was followed by a 3 by Deja Pointer and a left-handed runner by freshman Jordanna Porter to cut it to 30-20 with two minutes remaining.
But Schaefer nailed a 3-pointer from the corner that bounced off the backboard 17 seconds later to squelch the Lady Eagles' run.
"We just didn't get back like we were lost at (times) whatever we tried to throw out defensively," McKinnon said. "We weren't ready."
Coming out of halftime trailing 35-25, Ellison made several attempts to rally, but never got closer than six before A&M found away to answer.
Sloppy play bit the Lady Eagles again late in the third when Schaefer registered one of her five steals and converted it for points to start a personal 6-0 run to push the Lady Tigers' lead to 15 (48-33) with 1:12 remaining.
Consolidated then sealed the game at the free throw line, hitting 10-of-20 in the fourth quarter.
"This game is huge for us," Heintz said. "We're just excited to have a big win against a great team."