In a thrilling holiday matchup between a pair of longtime rivals, the Ellison Lady Eagles snagged an impressive 43-37 victory from the Harker Heights Lady Knights on Monday at the Heights gym.
The game was close throughout, beginning as a low-scoring affair as the Lady Knights took a 17-14 lead into halftime.
Both teams found a rhythm in the second half. Harker Heights led 30-25 after three quarters but couldn’t build a comfortable lead and Ellison chipped away, taking the lead, 34-32, at the 5:22 mark on a made free throw.
Ellison Coach Sherry McKinnon said she made a defensive change to cover Lady Knights’ top scorer Arianna Jennings, who finished with 13 points.
It was strong defense, free throws and managing the clock that turned the tide and made the difference in the end.
“It was real exciting,” said McKinnon, who thought her Lady Eagles started sluggish following a tough tournament in Allen coming into the road game against a KISD opponent.
“I'm most proud of our defense standing up and not quitting,” she said, praising the play of Harker Heights’ Jennings.
“We made a switch to have Zoe Parker guard her and we made some big free throws at the end.”
Excitement is nothing new when the Lady Eagles match up against the Lady Knights.
For years, the two battled in District 12-6A, but the change in UIL districts has not diminished the rivalry.
“The coach and I are real close,” she said in reference to Harker Heights coach Shirretha Nelson, in her 14th season. McKinnon is in her 17th season.
“We’re old-timers. We have a great relationship and we’re very competitive on the court. To see the fans cheer the kids on, that’s stepping up and keeping our composure. Always when we play each other, it’s a rivalry.”
For Harker Heights, complementing Jennings’ 13 points was Amanda Grate with 11, Makayla Beckett with eight and Aaliyah White with five.
For Ellison, freshman Faith Etienne led all scorers with 19. Parker and Jada Miller contributed eight apiece, Jadesola Oladipo scored three, Candacie Graham, Hall and Ta’Laya Thorne all had two.
The Monday girls game was the first of a doubleheader, with the Harker Heights Knights following against the crosstown Shoemaker Grey Wolves.
The Eagles versus Knights rivalry continues Tuesday with the boys’ teams set to meet in a 1:30 p.m. start at Heights Gym.
Ellison 74, Round Rock 51
Before the Eagles headed into their rivalry matchup, they hosted Round Rock on Monday and cruised to victory on the same day they made the jump from No. 8 to No. 6 in the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches Class 5A rankings.
Ahziel McIver led the way with 24 points, with Sean Parks adding 19 and Nasaun Parker 11 to help Ellison improve to 5-0.
Harker Heights 65, Shoemaker 57
David Punch poured in 23 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, Jamari Alexander added 17 points and the Knights outlasted Shoemaker in the all-KISD matchup Monday.
DJ Moore tallied a team-high 15 points for the Grey Wolves, and Gregory Dumas had 12 points.
Waco Midway 65, Chaparral 46
The Bobcats took on the Class 6A Panthers on the road.
Arlington Bowie 48, Shoemaker Lady Grey Wolves 43
Facing each other for the second time in five days, visiting Bowie bested Shoemaker on Monday. The Lady Grey Wolves defeated Bowie on Day 1 of the Allen Hoopfest on Nov. 16.