By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
HARKER HEIGHTS - The Lady Knights played nice for about a minute.
But the rest of the game, which swung back and forth like a pendulum, was anything but.
In a game that at times looked more like a slugfest than a basketball game, No. 7 Harker Heights dominated defensively in the third quarter and held off a late rally by Ellison to pick up its 30th win of the season, 54-48.
"I don't think we got after it early on. We were just playing nice," said Harker Heights coach Shirretha Nelson. "I know for us that excitement builds when we do things as a team ... We are looking for that momentum for us to get a feel."
That feel came after Shanice Davis and JaQuan Jackson drained back-to-back 3-pointers from the corner to put the Lady Knights (30-1, 10-1 12-5A) up 17-11. Davis followed that with a steal and a layup and Heights seemingly took control 23-11 with five minutes left in the half.
"Last time Freeman and Jeter had a big game inside and they were collapsing on them and I was open and I was feeling it," said Davis, who led the Lady Knights with 20 points and six assists.
Despite Davis having her best game of the season - she hadn't reached 20 points in her senior campaign - the Lady Knights did not score again until the third quarter.
And it seemed like whatever Davis was doing, Deja Pointer, who led Ellison (22-9, 6-5) with 21 points, was doing just as well. The junior guard knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key and Kaitlyn Shearer got a putback to cut the Heights lead to 23-20. And with time winding down in the half, Ellison post Jordanna Porter stole the ball in the backcourt and got an easy layup to complete a 13-0 run and put Ellison up 24-23 at the half.
The physicality took its toll on both teams, though, in the second half.
As the game got rough, Nelson even began to worry a player was going to go down for more than just a moment and jeopardize both team's chances for and in the playoffs.
"I was strained about that, it got a little too physical. At the end of the day, we want to make the playoffs. So we want to play aggressive, but we don't want to get anyone hurt," Nelson said. "I want them to play tough, but we had blood and scratches and bodies on the floor. It got a little rough."
Her worries were warranted.
Three players left during the game - Ellison guards Kanesha Saygo and Ocleta Young and Freeman.
Freeman and Young returned after going down, but Saygo, who appeared to suffer from a shoulder injury with 3:37 left in the third quarter, never returned.
"It was very physical, very physical and that is what happens when you play crosstown rivals," said Ellison coach Sherry McKinnon. "My point guard going down really hurt us, because she makes a lot of things happen and allows us to get some other people some rest.
"It was kind of hard without her."
Davis took advantage of Ellison's lack of backcourt depth, picking the Lady Eagles' pockets seven times.
The biggest, though, came with 3:55 remaining ion the fourth. Following a steal and a layup by Alexus Dukes, Davis swiped the ball and took off down the court, converting on the other end and putting the Lady Knights up 48-37.
Moments later, she bounced a pass from the top of the key to Jackson, who was in perfect stride to the hoop.
The game looked over.
But Ellison wasn't done quite yet.
Pointer came through again for the Lady Eagles, converting a three-point play with 20 seconds left to cut the Heights lead to 54-48. Chris Jones then stole Heights' inbound pass and dished to Young, who jacked up a 3-pointer with time winding down. But, the shot clanged off the rim and Ellison's hopes of an upset ended.
"It wasn't exactly a struggle early on, but we weren't just aggressive," Nelson said. "When we turned on the pressure at the end that is when we started to pull away and see a glimpse of what we do very well."