TCS hangs on against Sacred Heart

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Texoma Christian's Nealee Russell drives to the basket during the district opener against Sacred Heart.

You never forget your first rival, even if realignment keeps you apart for a couple of seasons.

Back together in the same classification and the same district, the battles are back on for Texoma Christian and Muenster Sacred Heart.

There are few small school TAPPS rivalries which can, well rival what the Lady Eagles and Lady Tigers have produced. They combined for 11 of 13 state titles from 2003-15 and only once in that stretch did neither at least play for the title.

The players have obviously changed and so has one of the coaches but there is something that feels a bit right for their reunion to go down the wire before TCS held on for a 37-35 victory over Sacred Heart in the TAPPS District 2-2A opener at Texoma Christian.

“This is always a rivalry game,” TCS head coach Mark Ellison said. “It’s like with Sherman and Denison — records don’t matter. They get thrown out the window.”

T’a nne Boyd and Kylee Ryeczyk each finished with 11 points while McKenzie Poe added seven points for Texoma Christian (6-2, 1-0), which hosts Fort Worth Covenant Classical on Tuesday night.

Lily Haley had 11 points and Trinity Hess, Isabella Walterscheid and Emily Flusche all finished with six points for Muenster Sacred Heart (1-7, 0-1), which has the district bye on Tuesday.

While Sacred Heart never led, the Lady Tigers pulled even twice in the middle of the fourth. TCS managed only free throws from Poe and Ryeczyk as the lead slipped away.

It was tied at 29 after Waltersheid’s two free throws but Boyd answered with a basket. Sacred Heart followed with a score on the ensuing possession with 4:17 remaining.

The Lady Tigers had just one basket the rest of the way, courtesy of Hess a minute later to make it a one-point game.

But Boyd finished off a three-point play and after Amelia Becker’s two free throws got it back to a single possession with 1:23 left, TCS burned off 37 seconds.

Sacred Heart did come up with a turnover but missed the tying shot and Poe snagged the rebound with 8.9 seconds remaining. The Lady Tigers didn’t foul and Texoma Christian ran out the clock on the victory.

“I liked the way the girls fought. Down the stretch we had a freshman, a sophomore, two juniors and a senior who wasn’t with us before this year. They didn’t freak out,” Ellison said. “I told them you can be as good as you want to be. I think we’re going to be better and better each day.”

The Lady Eagles had an 11-point lead in the middle of the third quarter but couldn’t put Sacred Heart away despite the fact that the Lady Tigers hadn’t make a shot for nearly 13 minutes. They got just enough offense at the line — hitting 15-of-23 attempts in the contest — to hang around and were down just seven points heading to the fourth quarter.

Texoma Christian’s issue with turnovers in the second quarter kept the Lady Eagles from building an even bigger advantage at the break.

There were nine by TCS and were mostly offset by Sacred Heart committing eight of their own in that stretch. It’s what led to a quarter where a total of 12 points were scored.

Poe had a basket in the first 30 seconds of the frame before a six-minute drought ended on her layup with 1:33 to go in the half.

“We gotta clean some stuff up,” Ellison said, referencing an 11-day layoff for the program during the holiday break. “A lot of it had to do with shaking off the rust but part of it was not playing smart.”

Sacred Heart couldn’t take advantage as it made just three free throws in that span and didn’t hit a shot in the quarter — the last two points for the visitors came at the line via Haley.

Ryeczyk’s three-pointer from the top of the key with 10 seconds until intermission allowed TCS to open a double-digit half-time gap.

The Lady Eagles opened the game with seven straight points as Nealee Russell had a pair of drives. It took until the final three minutes of the first quarter for the Lady Tigers to get on the board. Walterscheid converted a three-point play and Flusche had a putback.

Shelbi Hayes gave TCS a 13-5 lead at the end of the stanza with her bucket underneath in the closing seconds.

TAPPS 2-2A

Texoma Christian                       37

Sacred Heart                             35