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Playoff preview: For Lady Knights, 1 out of 3 ain't bad

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Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2011 5:36 am

By Alex Byington and Kevin Posival Killeen Daily Herald

Three area girls basketball teams are hoping the old adage of third time’s the charm will hold true tonight.

For rivals Ellison and Harker Heights, tonight’s Region II-5A quarterfinal will be their third meeting this season after the Lady Eagles swept both district matchups by an average of 13 points.

By the same token, Salado will face District 25-3A foe Liberty Hill — with whom it split district road wins — in its Region IV-3A quarterfinal at Lampasas.

While similar, each game poses unique challenges for all three teams.

For Ellison, it’s avoiding overconfidence after two convincing victories over the same team.

“(It’s) just keeping them focused on the fact that we’ve done a lot of things right in beating them, but you’ve still got to come out and play,” Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon said.

For Heights, it’s getting over the mental roadblock of being unable to beat a team.

“It’s always difficult, they’ve been a difficult team for us to finish against,” Heights coach Shirretha Nelson said. “What we’re focusing on is we’re a different team than the last time they played us.”

For Salado, it’s coming out on top in the rubber match against a team it’s very familiar with.

“There’s no secrets when you get to this point, everybody’s already scouted everybody else, everybody’s got film on everybody else,” Salado coach Jeanette McKinney said. “... It’s going to come down to who executes the gameplan better.”

Girls regional quarterfinals

ELLISON (29-7) vs. HARKER HEIGHTS (27-10)

6:30 p.m. at Killeen High School

Outlook: During district play, the Lady Eagles had the Lady Knights’ number, winning both games in convincing fashion — 54-37 and 45-36. But since that last loss to Ellison on Jan. 28, Harker Heights has been a different team, turning to 6-foot-1 posts Eboniey Jeter and Brianna Freeman. With both averaging a double-double the Lady Knights have won four of their last five games. Outside of a slip-up in the regular-season finale against Shoemaker, the Lady Eagles have won nine of their last 10 games including a pair of gut-check playoff wins against Longview and Richardson.

SALADO (17-16) vs. No. 5 LIBERTY HILL (25-6)

6 p.m. at Lampasas High School

Outlook: Salado has already proved it can play with some of Class 3A’s best and will need a similar showing today to knock off another ranked team. The Lady Eagles used a hot start to put away Hondo, then ranked 12th in the state after rolling through its district. Hadley Joiner leads Salado, but Jenna Sebek, Carling Urben and Alexis Bowman all reached double figures against Hondo along with Joiner.

Liberty Hill was District 25-3A champion and rolled in its area-round playoff game. The Lady Panthers’ lone district blemish was a 43-38 Salado win at Liberty Hill.

Boys bi-district

No. 14 HARKER HEIGHTS (27-5, 12-2 12-5A) vs. LONGVIEW (20-9, 4-6 11-5A)

6 p.m. at Navarro College (Corsicana)

Outlook: The Knights, who started district play with 10 straight victories, were brought back to Earth with a 2-2 record over the final four games including home losses to A&M Consolidated and Shoemaker. Led by an array of seniors — including 6-foot-7 wing Royce O’Neale, 6-1 post Brandon Bullock and dynamic guard Daevon Brown — the Knights hope a week away from competition will give them a renewed desire to win.

Longview, despite struggling to four wins in district play, has shown the ability to pull upsets thanks to the strong scoring of guards Toney Foster and Luke Mack, who have averaged 16 and 13.5 points per game.

ELLISON (20-12, 10-4 12-5A) vs. MESQUITE HORN (18-14, 6-4 11-5A)

7 p.m. at Waco High School

Outlook: The Eagles enter their 17th straight postseason having won four of the last five games, with the lone loss a controversial one-point defeat at Bryan. If Ellison is going to make a prolonged playoff run, it’ll depend on Division I-talents Devonte Brown and Jaleel Williams playing together and fellow senior Shane Jones continuing to step his game up.

Horn, the third seed out of 11-5A, upset crosstown rival Mesquite — 11-5A’s runner-up — in the regular-season finale. Despite a two-game win streak entering the playoffs, Horn has been inconsistent, especially during district with a loss to fourth-place Longview two weeks ago.

No. 7 KILLEEN (31-3, 10-0 8-4A) vs. ARLINGTON SEGUIN (12-19, 7-7 7-4A)

6:15 p.m. at West High School

Outlook: Their regular-season finale scare coupled with last year’s first-round playoff loss should have the seventh-ranked Runnin’ Roos motivated for their game against 7-4A’s fourth seed, Arlington Seguin.

Killeen’s 6-foot-8, University of Houston-signed forward Tashawn Thomas is averaging 21 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks a game. Thomas and seniors Sedrick Jennings and Anthony Taylor and junior Tevin Bartney have the Roos going into their seventh straight postseason with their best record since 2008.

The Cougars, led by 6-6 sophomore Greg Wesley (12 points, six rebounds per game) and 5-9 sophomore guard Chris Boleware (10 points, four assists per game), and are making their first postseason appearance since 2006.

SALADO (21-10, 6-4 25-3A) vs. WIMBERLEY (20-10, 9-3 26-3A)

8 p.m. at Burnet High School

Outlook: In its first season in 3A, the Eagles have shown what strong senior leadership can do, with 6-foot-7 post Braxton Tucker and guards Jacob Heiner and Tony Sager providing a stable of go-to guys that can step up and take control at any time. Led by Heiner, the team’s point guard and captain, Salado did just that in the second half of district, winning its final three games to get into the playoffs.

The Texans put together a similar run to end the year, winning five of their last six games, with the lone loss coming to undefeated 26-3A champion Boerne. Leading the scoring charge has been guard Hunter Burttschell, a transfer from San Marcos.

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