By Alex Byington and Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - This season, the Harker Heights boys basketball team is in uncharted territory.
There have been longer win streaks, there have been higher rankings and there have been higher profile players.
Yet, through the first round of district play, the No. 9-ranked Knights (22-3, 7-0 12-5A) have never been perfect.
Since a disappointing double-digit loss to San Antonio Antonian Prep on Dec. 28, Heights has won 10 in a row, including a first-half sweep of its seven District 12-5A opponents.
"We're not looking at the 7-0 start, we're not looking at the ranking and this and that, because that's just somebody picking names out of a hat," Knights coach Celneque Bobbitt said. "We've just had the luxury of being a little bit better than the teams we've been playing and having a little more players."
These are much the same Knights who last year suffered through a .500 season (16-16) and a 6-8 record in district, which included a second-half stretch of four losses in five games.
Bobbitt credited the team's turnaround to more maturity and overall rededication to being the best.
"Last year, we had the same guys, but they weren't mature enough to get it done," Bobbitt said. "Now this year, you put it back on them and make them have some ownership, then you see that they actually want it."
With seven games remaining, the motivation now is to out-do Heights' lone district championship season - 2005-06 - when the Knights went 13-1 in district and won a school-record 30 games.
"Now that they've got ranked, you know how kids are, they want to stay ranked," Bobbitt said. "... Then they go out there and work hard."
Lady Roos' D is difference in win
The Lady Roos' full-court trap took less time to get going than their offense, but when it did, their shots starting falling and their third-straight District 8-4A victory wasn't far behind.
"It took them a couple of possessions (in the third quarter) to kind of get to what we were doing," Killeen coach Latisha Williams said of the trap, but when they locked it in, the Lady Roos (17-9, 4-1) held Stephenville to less than 32 percent shooting and forced 14 turnovers in the second half of their 53-50 come-from-behind win on Friday.
"We haven't been very successful during the year with that, but they fought and started making some shots," Williams said. "... That was probably the best defense that I've seen in a while - in the second half. In the first half, I'm like 'what are we doing?'"
Stephenville's Alex Huckabee hit four of her seven and the Honeybees' 10 3-pointers in the first half but was held to just three 3s in the second half and just one in the fourth. Killeen's defense held Stephenville to 2-of-8 shooting in the fourth and rallied from a 16-point third-quarter deficit for a key district win that put the Lady Roos in a three-way tie for first going into the second half of their district schedule.
"That press it was great because we never really press as well as we did," said Killeen sophomore Esha Atkins, who hit a momentum-changing 3-pointer in the third. "I guess when you find - and you play with - heart, everything changes, and that's what we did."
Tonight's games to watch
Temple (22-7, 7-2 12-5A) at Harker Heights (21-8, 7-2), 7:30 p.m. - Winners of five straight and locked in a three-way tie atop the District 12-5A standings, the Lady Knights are seeking to avenge their only district losses in the first round - against fellow leaders Temple and Ellison.
Ellison (23-6, 7-2 12-5A) at Copperas Cove (20-7, 5-4), 7:30 p.m. - This is the rubber match between the bitter district rivals, with the Lady Eagles taking the first game in district 53-51 and the Lady Bulldawgs rolling 43-31 in the championship game of the Bush's Chicken Classic on Dec. 30.