By Angel Verdejo
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS – As coach Shirretha Nelson put it Tuesday night, just two more to go.
The Harker Heights girls basketball coach is referring to wins, as in her Lady Knights need just two more wins to match their total from all of last year.
The young Lady Knights got No. 5 against an even younger Waco University team, rallying once in the third quarter then again in the fourth before pulling out the 54-39 win at home.
Harker Heights now goes to 5-7 on the year. The Lady Knights went 7-26 a year ago – Nelson's first as head coach – and went into this season again relying on youth. Of the nine Lady Knights that scored Tuesday, only two are seniors. Sophomore Shanice Davis and junior Bianca Patterson led Harker Heights with 11 points each, while Mariama Dashiell (junior) and Brianna Freeman (freshman) each had nine.
"We are a lot better than where we started but we still have a long way to go to," Nelson said. "I don't think we've reached anywhere to our potential."
And part of working with youth is finding the right rotation, which is also a work in progress, Nelson said. It worked in Harker Heights' favor late, as Sara Anderson, Latifah Evans and Dashiell came off the bench in the second half to help the Lady Knights take a third-quarter lead.
Evans pulled Harker Heights within a point, 31-30, with a 3-pointer in the final minute of the third period, while Anderson recorded a steal in the final seconds and Dashiell answered on the other end with a layup to put the Lady Knights up 34-31 to end the quarter.
"We brought in some different kids to get a couple of different looks and see what we could work and what we needed to work," Nelson said. "From the book perspective, I know they probably didn't lead us to finish the game, but they shifted the momentum."
The lead lasted just over a minute. Another Dashiell layup put Harker Heights up five points before Waco University's Alejandra Castaneda hit a 3-pointer on the other end. Keaynieshia Maladdie made a second a minute later, putting the Lady Trojans up 37-36 with 5:41 to play.
That was the last time Waco University (1-12) led. Harker Heights scored on its next three possessions, while the taller Lady Knights started commanding the glass on both the offensive and defensive end. They grabbed 25 offensive rebounds and outrebounded Waco University 52-23.
Freeman had a game-high 14 rebounds, while Patterson had a double-double with 11 points to go with 10 rebounds.
Rodnika Morrison led Waco University with 18 points.
"Our tallest girl is 5-foot-8, but most of our issue is we start three freshmen and have six on the varsity," Waco University coach Scott Masch said. "These kids are good kids. They just haven't learned the varsity game yet – the pressure."
Said Nelson: "We've been putting a lot of focus on rebounding. Either we're really good at it or we're not. Tonight we just happened to be really good at it."
Contact Angel Verdejo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7564.