By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
Even without its top shooters, Ellison won how it always does - with defense and rebounding.
It was just a different cast of characters leading the way.
With sharpshooters Ocleta Young and Deja Pointer resting due to nagging injuries, Ellison had to rely on its senior role players to step up.
Toi Taylor and Jasmine Washington responded to the challenge Friday.
Washington scored 19 points and Taylor barely missed a triple-double as the Lady Eagles defeated Belton 71-45 at Ellison.
At first, though, it looked like the Lady Tigers might pull the upset over No. 21 Ellison (20-5, 4-1 District 12-5A).
Facing the Lady Eagles' patented man-to-man defense, Meghan Braeuer, who had a game-high 23 points, carved her way to point after point.
Down 17-15, Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon was forced to change things up, switching her team from man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.
"We weren't stopping Meghan from penetrating through the middle," McKinnon said. "We just weren't stopping them and I knew I had to make a change and put some more pressure on them."
It worked and then some.
The Lady Eagles held Belton (8-15, 0-5) without a field goal from the 1:58 mark of the second quarter to the 3:34 mark of the fourth.
"As long as they were playing us man and we could set some ball screens and penetrate and pick up fouls we were OK," said Belton coach Randy Bell. "When they started matching up full court and then dropping into that zone ... it slowly went downhill from that."
Ellison was also dominating the boards, outrebounding Belton 50-17.
The Lady Tigers' only saving grace was its foul shooting. Ellison's aggressive defense led to 24 fouls and sent Belton to the line 31 times - they hit 22, including 15-of-20 during the bucket-less stretch.
But foul shots aren't going to get the job done against a team putting the ball in the basket, which is what Washington was doing.
The senior scored 17 of her points after the defensive switch. She even drained two 3-pointers - a part of her game she had been struggling with.
The two 3s, along with another by Kaneisha Saygo, opened up the game for Ellison as they went into halftime up 32-23.
"As far as the outside shooting, coach McKinnon has been getting on me about stepping it up on them," Washington said. "I know we needed it tonight, too, because we had two of our shooters out."
In the third quarter, the game got out of hand. The Lady Eagles scored the first 12 points to take a 21-point lead behind a stifling press and an off-the-wall rebounding effort by Taylor, a 5-foot-5 guard.
Taylor led Ellison with 11 rebounds, eight steals, four assists and also added 10 points. The effort by Taylor kept Ellison pumping and the lead growing as the Lady Eagles stretched its lead to 31 late in the fourth quarter.
"Telegraphing passes is one thing, but I kind of just jump at everything," Taylor said. "It gets me in trouble sometimes, but it worked out tonight and got the job done."