Lady Eagles Heat Up, Roll to Bi-District Playoff Win

Sherry McKinnon knew not to let a hint of panic or concern sink in. If there was one thing she’d learned about this year’s Ellison Lady Eagles team — aside from its willingness to scrap and battle –– is that it remains steady no matter the circumstance.

Looking to pass

Resilient, really.


So, as Ellison slogged through a slow start to its Class 5A bi-district playoff against Magnolia West on Tuesday night, McKinnon remained patient.


The Lady Eagles rewarded their coach for that by flipping the switch and not letting the Lady Mustangs have a chance to turn it off again.


Ellison closed the second quarter on a 13-2 run for an 11-point halftime advantage and left West behind in the second half to secure a 48-28 victory at Caldwell High School.


“We may start off slow, I’m trying to fix that,” McKinnon said with a chuckle. “But I know one thing, I don’t get rattled anymore in that first quarter because those girls come back and get after it. They play hard. They have a will to win. They want to win.”


And win they did with a collective effort that had all the ingredients –– active, aggressive defense and transition offense boosted by the occasional 3-pointer and bucket in the paint from the halfcourt set –– in a formula that’s earned McKinnon and the Lady Eagles plenty of victories over the years.


Ellison (24-11), the No. 2 seed from District 22-5A, next plays Class 5A No. 11 Pflugerville Hendrickson (26-7) in the area round at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Marble Falls. The Lady Eagles and Lady Hawks played one other time this season, Dec. 27, at a tournament. Hendrickson won 62-35.


“To (win a playoff game) with this group of girls, who’ve shown a lot of grit this whole season, and buying in to what we tell them, it feels great,” McKinnon said. "They knew our defense had to play really well against this team. We get after it (on defense) in practice, and I’m blessed with athletes who can move and they are pretty fast and pretty quick and they are just going to hustle, and sometimes they look like they have an instinct to get where they need to go."

Up for a shot

CoachingFreshman Faith Etienne had a team-high 16 points to pace the Lady Eagles, who also got eight points from Ta-Laya Thorne, seven points from Jada Miller, and six apiece from Zoe Parker and Jasmine Hall.


Chanice Jones had a team-high 12 points for West (22-14), which was the third seed out of 21-5A.


“It was a team effort tonight,” said McKinnon, whose squad staged a number of come-from-behind victories during league play, including two key wins over Chaparral and Lake Belton.


It was Ellison’s 11 straight victory overall and the fifth time in that span it held an opponent to less than 30 points.


The Lady Eagles didn’t make a shot from the field until Etienne’s 3-pointer pulled her team within 5-4 with 2:45 left in the opening quarter. On Ellison’s next offensive possession, she drained another 3 for a 7-5 advantage that held to the second quarter.


Tied at 7 with 2:54 to play in the second, Indigo Newburn made one of two free throws. Not monumental, normally, but that make opened up the flood gates.


Dribbing up courtParker scored four straight points on back-to-back layups –– the second of which was set up by Miller’s steal in the backcourt –– Miller and Hall buried 3-pointers, and Candacie Graham glided in for a layup. Suddenly, it was 20-7 with 50 seconds before the break.


“It was our energy, us cheering each other on, keeping us going, and just saying ‘We can do this,’ Etienne said of the surge. “We like to keep our heads in the game, just keep going even if we make a mistake. We still make sure that we talk to each other and make sure we are in the right spots.”


Etienne posted eight points in the third, Thorne, Miller and Jadesola Oladipo added a bucket each, and the Lady Eagles ballooned their lead to 34-16 going to the fourth.


The buffer increased to as much as 23 on two occasions during the final period, plenty of space for McKinnon to call on the rest of her reserves to close out the triumph.