By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
Lancaster dropped its last two games and suffered untimely but playable injuries in the week since it finished as District 15-4A's runner-up. Killeen lost its last district game and will go into tonight's 8 p.m. bi-district playoff at Waco High having lost seven of its last.
Tonight, the two teams meet in a rematch of last year's bi-district playoff game with neither Lancaster nor Killeen riding much momentum.
"Every now and then you get a loss and it's a reality check," Lancaster coach Beverly Lockett said. "Hopefully, that'll be the fuel we need."
Last season in Corsicana, the Lady Tigers – bolstered with the confidence of a four-game winning streak – jumped out to a 16-3 lead on Killeen, and the Lady Roos got close just once, when they cut that lead to five early in the fourth quarter.
After that, Lancaster pressed the Lady Roos right out of gym en route to a 68-49 win.
"After the first quarter, we spent the whole game playing catch-up," Killeen coach Latisha Rosemond said. "We had to press and we weren't very deep. We got the lead to five and just lost steam. We definitely don't want, can't, start out like we did last year."
Like last year, the Lady Tigers (24-7) enjoyed success after the Christmas break. They won seven in a row at one point, including a Jan. 18 upset of No. 11 Arlington Seguin in Arlington.
However, the Lady Tigers are currently on a two-game slide after losses to Waxahachie and Class 5A Dallas Skyline on Saturday in a playoff warm-up.
After watching the Skyline game, Rosemond called on 5-10 sophomore forward Jasmine Baugus (15 points, nine rebounds a game), junior guard Imani Dunn (nine points) and senior forward Maci Brickhouse (14 points) to step up offensively. She also called out senior guard Jasmine Pitts, who returns to the lineup after a mid-season injury, and the Lady Roos' (22-10) defense to slow Lancaster's running game.
Junior post Breanna Shaw will miss her second consecutive postseason with an ACL injury.
Lancaster is led by 5-foot-4 senior guard Jericka Jenkins, who is much more than Lancaster's leading scorer. In addition to her 16 points, four assists, three steals and five rebounds a game, she's also the light of perseverance and determination as a cancer survivor.
Jenkins averaged 28 in Lancaster's wins over Corsicana and 15-4A number-three seed, Ennis. In the three games since, however, she's averaged just 13 and her numbers declined each game. She injured her toe against Waxahachie and scored just 10 against Skyline.
"Mentally, she's ready for the challenge," Lockett said. "Jericka is known for saying things like 'I've survived cancer,' that kind of puts things into perspective for the rest of us."
With Jenkins, Alexandria Dews (flu) and Ashley Stark (shoulder) all playing through some sort of malady, Lancaster senior post Brittany Bush has stepped up in the last few weeks.
Bush averages 12 points a game and leads the team in rebounds (seven), but averaged 21 in her last two regular season games and led Lancaster with 14 against Skyline.
"She's going to have to pick up a lot of the slack," Lockett said. "As Captain and leader of this team, she's going to play like it (tonight). And if she's struggling, someone else's is going to have step up."
Whether it's Bush or Jenkins or Dews (11 points, seven rebounds, two assists), that trio concerns Rosemond the most.
"At least two of those three girls can step up and score. You don't know which one's going to go off," Rosemond said. "(Jenkins) is the heart and sole of that team. Her and Brittany Bush are their go-to ones. We've got to keep them off the boards when they shoot so they don't get second- and third-chance opportunities and make them all work very hard all night."
Rosemond has been preaching last year's early deficit, a 36-20 rebounding disadvantage and 18 turnovers as Killeen's keys of what not to do in tonight's game. And, bottom line, the Lady Roos need to play more like the team that beat 16-4A rival Copperas Cove 45-44 on Feb. 1 and less like the team that was blown out by Waco University on Feb. 5.
"It gives us that line, 'If you play like you did against University, you won't win,'" Rosemond said. "The girls understand that they are capable of playing terrible and capable of playing well. They have to be focussed for this game and hopefully, (that loss) works in our favor."
Contact Kevin Posival at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7562.