CORSICANA — Robert E. Lee senior Bre Brooks walked somberly off the court to her family while clutching at her jersey.
It was over.
Her high school career at Lee came to an unwelcomed end on Monday against Killeen Harker Heights in the bi-district round of the Class 5A girls basketball playoffs at Tiger Gymnasium. Harker Heights, ranked No. 8, outscored Lee 26-11 in the opening period en route to an 84-44 win.
Harker Heights (34-1) moves on to face either Richardson or Garland Naaman Forest in the area round later this week. Lee completes its season at 22-11.
Brooks was held scoreless for most of the first half while Harker Heights took turns sending two and sometimes three players to trap her up and down the floor. She finished with a team-high 17 points, a small consolation in a losing cause.
“We started off slow; it’s like we didn’t have that intensity,” said Brooks, a North Texas signee. “We had it on the bus, but we just didn’t bring it to the floor. Nearly half of the trips up the floor we didn’t block out, we didn’t do nothing right that we’d practiced all week long and even last weekend.
“We just didn’t bring it.”
Lee junior Ciara Johnson was held under her season scoring average, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
All told, Harker Heights out-rebounded Lee 50-25, which led to the Lady Knights attempting 76 shots compared to 44 for the Lady Raiders. Harker Heights also forced Lee into 23 turnovers.
“They are a great ball club and they are going to go far in the tournament,” said Lee coach Lloyd Mahaffey. “We didn’t get off to a good start and it just built from there.”
The loss ends Brooks and her teammates’ season on a sour note. The Lady Raiders dropped four of their last six games and are still waiting to break through for their first playoff win since 2005. Brooks started four years for Lee at point guard, but has been on the losing end in the bi-district round of the playoffs three years in a row.
“I am going to work out and go get better physically (so I am ready for North Texas),” Brooks said. “I have a future ahead of me, so I am going to get myself ready for it.”
The future seemed bright at the start of this season as Lee looked to build on last year with a new head coach, Mahaffey, and three potential Division I players. Brooks and Stacey Malone (Kansas State) did sign letters of intent while Johnson, a junior forward, was the team’s returning leading scorer.
Malone played just one game before having surgery, which was the first of a series of injuries to starters, causing Mahaffey to play with only two subs on the bench. He brought up several JV players for Monday’s playoff game to fill out the roster.
Mahaffey also showed Lee a newspaper clipping from 1997 about the Chapel Hill boys basketball team that upset then No. 1 Silsbee in the playoffs.
Once the game began, Harker Heights had no intention of allowing the Lady Raiders any momentum.
Lee took a 3-2 lead on a free throw from Johnson, but Harker Heights responded with separate 7-0 and 6-0 runs to race out to a 19-5 lead. A jumper by Johnson with 45 seconds in the first period cut REL’s deficit to single digits for the last time, 20-11.
Harker Heights hit two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds to lead 26-11 entering the second.
“We did kind of rush (in the opening minutes); we were kind of flustered,” said Harker Heights coach Shirretha Nelson. “But eventually we start to do some things and put better pressure on the ball. We forced them into a couple mishandles which is what we were trying to do.”
Harker Heights senior post Eboniey Jeter was held under double digits, but not for a lack of trying as the North Texas signee led all players with 14 rebounds, most of them on the offensive end. She finished with eight points while junior Brianna Freeman led all players with 22 points and 10 boards. Senior guard Brianna Golden had 14 points with senior guard Shanice Davis finishing with 11.
Any chance Lee had to try and come back was extinguished in the opening minutes of the second period. Harker Heights scored 13 straight points before a jumper from Johnson made it 39-13.
A stunned Lee team tried to mount a response, but went into the locker room trailing 44-24.
Harker Heights picked up where it left off in the third period, outscoring Lee 22-9 to make the fourth period a mere formality.
The Lady Raiders say goodbye to five seniors. Along with Brooks and Malone, Lee also graduates Jazzmine Kemp, Kaylie Brown and Chasity Tennyson. Only Brooks and Tennyson played in Monday’s game with Tennyson held scoreless with four rebounds and a steal.
Lee returns four starters, led by Johnson, and that is what Mahaffey is going to work toward for next year.
“We’ve got to have a good offseason and get into the weight room,” Mahaffey said. “We need to fix some strength problems. We want to have a strong offseason and get going.”
Killeen Harker Heights 84, Robert E. Lee 44
Robert E. Lee 11 13 9 11 – 44
Harker Heights 26 18 22 18 – 84
ROBERT E. LEE – Berjae Lewis, 0; Alexandria Thorne, 0; Ciara Johnson, 14; Bre Brooks, 17; Tree Brooks, 3; Dajah Thompson, 0; Chasity Tennyson, 0; Dominique Thomas, 4; Kelcee Dews, 0; Emem David, 6; Jordan Clewis, 0; Shartoney Alexander, 0. FG: 15-44. FT: 10-15.
HARKER HEIGHTS – Brianna Golden, 14; Alexus Dukes, 6; Shadai Valentine, 3; Jaquan Jackson, 10; Brianna Freeman, 22; Tiffany Coleman, 2; RaeVaughn Barnes, 3; Shanice Davis, 11; Eboniey Jeter, 9; Patience Gitau, 0; Kionna Hunter, 0. FG: 32-76. FT: 12-17.
THREE-POINT GOALS – REL (4-14): B. Brooks (4). HH (6-16): Golden (2), Jackson, Freeman (2), Barnes.
RECORDS – Robert E. Lee 22-11; Killeen Harker Heights 34-1.
NEXT UP – Lee season complete; Harker Heights vs. Richardson-Naaman Forest winner in area round.