The opportunity to make a statement was there, and in the second half, Harker Heights pounced on it.
Situated in a tie atop the District 12-6A standings, the Lady Knights traveled to Ellison on Tuesday for an encounter with their counterpart in first place, and the contest began as expected.
The squads were never separated by more than seven points in the opening half and were within two points entering the third quarter.
With less than 3 minutes remaining in regulation, however, everything changed.
After the Lady Eagles created a 36-32 advantage, Harker Heights responded with a 28-7 run, propelling it to a 60-47 victory and sole possession of the district lead.
Following the win, Lady Knights starting guard Emri Lovell admitted her team found its focus during the third quarter.
“We had a really great talk at halftime,” she said, “and we got ourselves together. We knew we had to bring a new energy and fight with us.
“We had one more half left, and we needed to give it our all.”
Harker Heights held the lead for a majority of the contest, inflating a 22-20 halftime cushion to seven points, 31-24, but it would not last. Paced by junior guard Evelyn Lorenzo, who recorded nine of her game-high 24 points in the third quarter, Ellison used a 12-1 outburst to move ahead 36-32.
Then, the Lady Knights rallied, closing the quarter with 11 unanswered points before seeing the gap widen to 48-39 on Sierra Brooks’ 3-pointer. It was one of seven shots Harker Heights (9-3, 5-0) hit from behind the arc in the second half after missing all six of its first-half attempts.
“We just ran our plays,” Lady Knights head coach Shirretha Nelson said, “and they all require open players, ball movement and rotation. We always talk about possessing the ball a little bit longer, making the defense collapse and reading the weaknesses.
“We started doing all of that better in the second half.
“We were making good, offensive decisions.”
The Lady Eagles (13-2, 4-1) scored four consecutive points, pulling within 48-43 on Lorenzo’s basket with less than five minutes remaining, but Harker Heights posted the game’s next dozen points to take complete control.
Lovell was perfect from the floor after halftime, making all six of her field-goal attempts, including three 3-pointers, en route to a team-high 19 points, while Brooks finished with 11 points and game-high six assists.
Additionally, teammates Empress Roberts and Samiyah Walker (6 reb) scored 10 and eight points, respectively.
“I believe in every one of those kids that I put on the floor,” Nelson said. “There is not one that I wouldn’t trust to take a big shot.
“It doesn’t matter who it is, and I think that’s what hurt us in the first half – we tried to force things that weren’t there. … Once we started to play as a team, we played much better, because this group is a great team.”
Along with Lorenzo’s production, which included a team-high five assists, the Lady Knights’ closing surge spoiled a nine-point, nine-rebound outing form Ellison senior DeAjia Brown and a 10-rebound showing from teammate Nylia Mobley.
Now, the Lady Knights will attempt to carry the momentum forward as they prepare to host Killeen on Friday, while the Lady Eagles, who had not lost since Nov. 20, will look to rebound at home against Belton.
“We just want to defend our title from last year,” Lovell said. “We had to play hard.
“Now, this should make us want to work even harder. We cannot take any competition lightly.”
Regardless of what happens moving forward, Nelson knows her team made a statement.
“This is a big deal,” she said, “because it is always hard to play Ellison at its home. It is always a competitive game anytime we meet.
“They have such a tradition of confidence and discipline, so it is always nice to get a win here, because it just means a little bit more.”
HARKER HEIGHTS 60, ELLISON 47
Harker Heights (60)
Morgan 7, Gutierrez 1, Lovell 19, Brooks 11, Roberts 10, Walker 8, Riggs 4.
Lorenzo 24, Reed 3, Cherry 6, Satchel 2, Mobley 3, Brown 9.
Harker Heights 11 11 21 17—60
Ellison 10 10 16 11—47
3-Point Goals – Harker Heights 7 (Lovell 3, Walker 2, Brooks, Roberts), Ellison 4 (Cherry 2, Lorenzo, Reed). Free Throws – Harker Heights 5-11, Ellison 7-15. Fouled Out – None. Total Fouls – Harker Heights 13, Ellison 10. Technicals – None.
Records – Harker Heights 9-3, 5-0 12-6A; Ellison 13-2, 5-0.
12-6A GIRLS BASKETBALL
Harker Heights 5-0
Copperas Cove 1-4
- Copperas Cove 42, Belton 26
- Harker Heights 60, Ellison 47
- Shoemaker 50, Killeen 41
- Temple 53, Bryan 34