By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
TEMPLE - In her third season, Harker Heights coach Shirretha Nelson expects the Lady Knights to reach some lofty heights.
Just two games into the fresh season, Nelson is already seeing some positive changes from a team that doubled it's meager win-total in her first season as coach.
The difference was obvious as Heights moved to 2-0 for the first time under Nelson with an admittedly ugly 67-23 drubbing of Austin McCallum on Thursday in the opening round of the Chisholm Trail Classic, co-hosted at Belton and Temple high school.
"Our confidence level - going 2-0, playing more aggressive and making better reads on the court," Nelson said. "For us, it's just making adjustments this early on, (which was) such a late-in-the-season skill in previous years, but this year it seems to be much quicker."
Flashy sophomore guard JaQuan Jackson led with 19 points in less than 15 minutes, including 13 in a first quarter in which the Lady Knights built an early 10-0 advantage en route to a commanding 22-4 lead after the opening period.
"She's very confident this year," Nelson said of Jackson, who was moved up from JV midway through last season. "... I think she's a lot more under control this year, she's showing more poised with her play, and it's starting to show. She's reaping the rewards for us, getting the points and running the floor for us."
Even with its starters riding the bench for the entire second quarter, Heights (2-0) still outscored McCallum 10-6 in the foul-filled frame for a 32-10 halftime advantage, as the Lady Knights tallied 13 first-half fouls.
McCallum pulled within 36-14 with 3 1/2 minutes to play in the third quarter, but with the starters back in, Heights rolled off a 16-0 run over the next six minutes before McCallum nailed its lone three-pointer to stop the bleeding.
The Lady Knight reserves closed out the contest on a 15-6 run as all but one player scored, including seven points from Eboniey Jeter and six apiece from Brianna Golden, Brianna Freeman and Shanice Davis.
Ellison 66, Sam Houston 25 - At Belton, Jalissa Williams and Alayshia Hunter scored 10 of the game's first 11 points and the Lady Eagles never looked back.
Ellison (2-0) jumped out to a 13-1 lead in the first quarter and was never remotely threatened as it handed Sam Houston a 41-point loss in the first round of the Chisholm Trail Classic.
"That felt good," said Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon. "... My kids are doing exactly what I want them to do. We are trying to pick apart teams real quickly by getting a few steals and pressing. That is our game. We don't do well sitting back in a zone."
Williams led all scorers with 13 points and also pulled down 10 rebounds, while Hunter added eight points and eight boards.
"They are two special post players and they are going to keep improving," McKinnon said. "Alayshia hasn't even been playing that long because she has been playing volleyball and to see her stepping it up and understand they are a big part of this offense (makes me proud)."
The Lady Eagles dominated with their inside-out game, crashing the boards and hitting 3s. Deja Pointer scored all nine of her points from beyond the arc and Ocleta Young added another trey in the first quarter.
Belton 57, San Antonio Brandies 38 - At Belton, the host Lady Tigers used an 11-2 third-quarter run to push their lead to double-digits for the first time before routing San Antonio Brandies in the opening round of their own Chisholm Trail Classic.
Switching from a half-court press to full-court, the aggressive Lady Tigers forced six of Brandies' game-high 30 turnovers during a four-minute span early in the second half in which Belton (1-1) scored on four fast break opportunities off of steals.
"We try to mix it up out of our man, and try to not let people know where (the pressure) is coming from, not let them settle in," Belton coach Randy Bell said, "... just trying to keep it as frantic as possible, and that's how we're going to have a chance to score."
Leading the way was senior point guard Meghan Braeuer, who had 18 points despite 4-of-15 shooting, scoring half her points from the charity stripe.
Braeuer also had a team-high five of the Lady Tigers 14 steals on the evening, while post Dasia McCray added 8 points and led the team with 9 of Belton's 27 rebounds.
Nick Talbot contributed to this report