By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Lady Tigers and Harker Heights Lady Knights had expected bigger things in 2014-15 then where they sat Friday night at Tiger Gym. Heights was 12-13 overall and 1-4 in District 12-6A play, while Belton sat right in back of the Lady Knights at 12-13 overall and 0-5 in District 12-6A. So something had to give. Belton and Heights played so close that neither team had more than a six-point lead. In the end, Belton emerged victorious 58-52. The win put the two teams tied at 1-5, good for a sixth-place in the district race. The Lady Tigers played without it’s leading scorer, Aubrianna Garcia, due to illness.
Heights jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first quarter, as a Mariana Warren field goal, four Alexus Dukes free throws and two JaLynn Bonner free throws set the pace of the game over the first 3:39. Emily Del Real, who scored the first three points for the Lady Tigers, stole a pass and set up a dish from Blair Gilbert to Keilee Burke to score and start Belton on a 10-0 run to close out the quarter. Kaitlyn Jones had a pair of three-pointers to pace the run and Elecia Jackson had a field goal in the paint to end the run and the quarter with Belton leading 13-8.
Heights methodically chewed away at the five-point lead, as Dukes and Warren’s free-throw shooting and solid play from Alexis Weisheit and Sheanne Ellis-Clayton put the Lady Knights in the lead 22-21. Another run by Belton, this time of the 10-4 variety, gave the Lady Tigers the lead at the half 31-26. Burke had two buckets in a row where she initially grabbed the offensive rebound.
Harker Heights head coach Shirretha Nelson with her team’s third quarter performance, as her Lady Knights outscored Belton 18-12. Dukes and Weisheit’s defensive play kept the Lady Tigers on their toes all quarter. “I was impressed with our girls in the third quarter,” Nelson said. “The girls needed to be in the position to win and it was important to have a great third quarter.”
Belton scored just three field goals in the quarter, with Cammie Moore, Del Real and McKinzee Robinson getting the tallies. Heights led 44-43 going into the final eight minutes. The teams seesawed through the first 3:46 of the final stanza, as Dukes and Ellis-Clayton traded points with Jones and Del Real locking the game up at 49-49. Heights did not score a field goal in the final 10:50 of the game and it caught up with them, as they mustered just three points in the final 4:14. Del Real, Jones, Jackson and Hannah Martin combined for a 9-3 run to close out the game.
“Defensively, we had a horrible game,” Nelson said. “We did not do a good job of block out and giving up too many rebounds.”
Jones led the Lady Tigers with 16 points and Del Real had 15 for the Lady Tigers. “Our kids felt really good after playing Midway (60-57 loss last Tuesday night) as well as they did,” Belton head coach Brenda Gomez said. “To come back and get our first home game win was very good. To do it without Aubrianna was very good as well. Free throws were concerning, as we were 0-for-3 in the first quarter.”
Belton has learned to deal with full court press issues, something that plagued them in the early part of the season.
“We’ve learned to deal with it by rushing everyone down the floor and getting the ball down as fast as we can and then kick it out,” Gomez explained. “Just not to let the girls think about it too much. Just get it down the floor.”
Both teams return to action to start the second half of the season. Both coaches know the competition ahead, but both have the same goal in mind. “I would like our girls to keep playing at this level,” Gomez said. “Defensively, I’d like to just keep blocking out 99 percent of the time and offensively keep scoring. We keep doing that and we will be a team to contend with.”
“I would like to win some ball games,” Nelson said. “There is no reason why we shouldn’t be winning ball games.”