By Alex Byington
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - Chelsea Grant didn't appreciate being blocked.
After getting stuffed by Heights counterpart Deysia Burden late in Game 4, Ellison's 6-foot-1 senior middle blocker single-handedly brought the Lady Eagles back from the brink and put the rest of District 12-5A on notice.
Taking control of the net with her team trailing 23-21 in Game 4, Grant scored five of the next six points to force a fifth game, as Ellison stole a 17-25, 25-15, 22-25, 26-24, 15-10 victory over the host Lady Knights on Tuesday.
"It felt good," said Grant, who posted a team-high 15 kills and 15 blocks. "They think they could dominate over us and everything, but we just had to come back and play how we play ... We just had to come and show them."
Described as going "ballistic" by Heights coach Chris Wiley, Grant was unstoppable in killing and blocking her way to 12 of Ellison's final 20 points over the last two games in what was a definitive statement game for the Lady Eagles (13-16, 3-1).
"She just went crazy on that front, and that's what we needed," first-year Ellison coach William De Gracia said of Grant. "She had a night tonight, she had an awesome night."
After years of floundering around the bottom of the district standings, the Lady Eagles established themselves as legitimate playoff contender, currently occupying third place two weeks into the 12-5A slate.
"We said this game is going to make that playoff or not and now it gives us a good chance to see where we will be seeded at," De Gracia said.
It was a tough loss to swallow for Heights (11-9, 1-3), another expected postseason challenger seeking its first playoff trip since 2003.
Behind its own strong front line play of Burden, Anjane Janda, and Shantraie Rodriguez, the Lady Knights were in control in Game 1.
But Ellison answered in Game 2, jumping out to a commanding 11-1 lead behind 10 straight points from server Ocleta Young and leading 16-2 following a pair of aces from Megan McKinnon.
"Game 2 we didn't play well and in Game 4 we let it slip," Wiley said simply. "We had the lead and we let it slip away."
Game 3 again went in Heights' favor as setter Katie Schulte served up a 5-0 lead while Burden and Janda combined with Darean Bogue to build it to a 15-11 advantage they wouldn't relinquish.
The Lady Knights carried the momentum over to Game 4, leading throughout.
At least until Grant decided she'd seen enough.
"The first few games, they tooled me, but I had to come back and watch the ball the whole time," Grant said. "Coach kept saying good timing, good timing and that just pumped me up even more."
With Arkansas-Little Rock assistant coach Todd Bourdo in the stands to watch her, Janda led Heights with 11 kills and eight digs while junior setter Katie Shulte had 22 assists. Burden added nine kills and a team-high five blocks.
"They came out on the top end tonight, but next time I can promise you it will be different," Wiley said.