Eminence's Kelsey Williams blocks the shot of Houston freshman Alexa Ichord in the first half of Monday night's season opener.

The Houston Lady Tigers started the new season strong. The finish could have been much better.

An early nine-point advantage shrunk to three entering the fourth quarter, and Eminence outscored Houston 23-13 down the stretch Monday nigh to rally for a 49-42 victory inside Hiett Gymnasium.

The Lady Tigers (0-1) lost many close games last season, and the trend continued into 2009.

“Another close game that we lost,” Houston coach Brent Kell said. “I take a lot of responsibility for that but at the same time, you’ve got to have kids step up and get the job done. They know what to do, they’ve just got to do it.”

Erica Keeney had 14 points and nine rebounds for Houston, which led the entire way until the beginning of the fourth quarter. Danielle Pounds added nine points and five assists.

Sophomore Haylee Kell missed the game with a knee injury.

Eminence’s Brooke Williams scored a team-high 20 points, and Kelsey Williams scored 17 of her 19 points in the second half.

Houston senior Jessica Herndon hit a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers as the Lady Tigers built a 14-8 advantage. The lead stretched to nine points on Shelbi Moore’s layin just under two minutes into the second quarter.

“We shared the ball well, attacked the glass and did a good job of taking it to them,” Kell said.

Houston held Eminence to single digits in each of the first three quarters by mixing box-and-one and triangle-and-two defenses. But the Lady Redwings got hot from the perimeter in the fourth and forced Houston into an unsuccessful fullcourt defense as it fell behind.

“We started pressing a little when they took the lead,” Kell said. “Instead of lowering our head and getting down, we need to pull together and have someone step up.”

Box score

Eminence 8 9 9 23 – 49

Houston 14 7 8 13 – 42

EMINENCE – BWilliams 7 6-6 20. Turner 2 0-2 4. Nichols 0 2-4 2. KWilliams 6 5-8 19. JLashley 1 1-2 3. CLashley 0 1-2 1. Totals 16 15-24 49.

HOUSTON (0-1) – Moore 1 0-0 2. Pounds 3 3-6 9. Honig 3 0-0 6. Herndon 2 0-0 6. Ichord 1 2-2 4. Keeney 6 2-5 14. Totals 16 7-13 42.

3-pointers: Eminence 2 (KWilliams 2); Houston 2 (Herndon 2).

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