By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
Ellison didn't win.
In fact, during one stretch the Lady Eagles were outscored 17-2. They did not even hit a single 3-pointer, going a disappointing 0-for-13 from beyond the arc. And they didn't have what it took to stop Moriah Jefferson, a Connecticut commit and the No. 2 recruit in the nation according to ESPN, who scored 26 points.
But Ellison might just have found what it needed to make a deep playoff run this season, despite a 64-53 loss to the Texas Home Educators' Sports Association (THESA) on Tuesday.
Down 37-19 midway through the second quarter, junior post Kaitlyn Shearer came into the game and railed off Ellison's next eight points.
Shearer, who led Ellison (5-2) with 18 points and 10 rebounds, helped aid Alayshia Hunter, who had 15 points and 15 rebounds, underneath the basket as the Lady Eagles staged a comeback - cutting the Riders (5-0) lead to 55-51 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
"Shearer played big. This was by far her best game so far with us," McKinnon said. "She did exactly what I thought she would be able to do and contribute to this team. She had some nice post moves and her and Alayshia got more involved in the post and it helped us a lot."
THESA, which is a Dallas-based home school athletics association, has won five straight national championships under head coach Alan Burt.
And that experience and talent showed early on.
After Ellison jumped up 6-1 in the first quarter, THESA began to hurt the Lady Eagles with its full-court press, forcing 11 turnovers in the quarter.
"We just don't have height, so we have to pressure the basketball," Burt said. "So, we have a saying in our press. For every layup we give up, we want to have three things happen a turnover, a steal or a forced shot.
"We have to make their guards break that pressure. If they don't you see what happens right there."
Melody Williams, who added 14 points for the Riders, converted a pair of three-point plays and Jefferson drained a 3-pointer and THESA ended the first quarter on a 23-4 run.
"They were jumping at things and we were not being smart at where we were placing the ball," McKinnon said. "I just think they put us in panic mode. They were playing fast and they dictated the pace and that is not what we wanted to do.
"We didn't have any game film on them and I was really surprised they came out and pressed us."
The inside presence of Ellison wore on THESA, though.
Shearer and Hunter teamed up in the third quarter to lead Ellison on a 14-2 run and cut the Riders lead to 47-41.
Jefferson scored six straight points as THESA stretched the lead back to 12 by the end of the quarter, but Shearer and Hunter kept at it in the fourth.
The inside duo led the Lady Eagles on another run, this time cutting the THESA lead to 55-51.
However, Ellison could not hit an outside shot to close the gap, missing all four of its 3-point attempts in the final three minutes.
Riders guard Mariah Hardeman then hit a late 3-pointer and Jefferson converted a pair of free throws to stave off the rally.
"I don't know if that has ever happened - we might have only hit one or two - but being 0-13 really hurt us," McKinnon said. "I thought we would shoot ourselves out of it. That is our game and Deja (Pointer) the other night went 5-of-5. So I don't know what was different. We had good looks. They just didn't fall."