In a matter of minutes, a tied season opener turned into a rout.
Eminence stole consecutive inbounds passes — leading to five quick points — late in the third quarter to spark a 19-5 run to pull away for a 63-42 victory Monday night against the Houston Lady Tigers inside Hiett Gymnasium.
“Just from watching game tape, there are a lot of things that are fixable,” Houston coach Brent Kell said. “Part of it is my fault. For one reason or another, we just didn’t get it done.”
The Lady Tigers (0-1) played well early. They led by as many as nine points late in the second quarter and by one at the half.
But Eminence ended the third quarter with a quick 12-5 run to break a 30-all tie and scored seven unanswered points to begin the fourth quarter.
Houston’s troubles began with Eminence’s fullcourt pressure. Courtney Coulter hit a pair of free throws after stealing an inbounds pass and on the next play, Kelsey Williams scored while being found after swiping another pass.
Katria Nichols drilled one of Eminence’s nine 3-pointers on the next possession as a tied game became an eight-point deficit in less than a minute for Houston.
Kell said his team’s lack of execution was to blame for the breakdown.
“We didn’t run our press break,” he said. “We tried to do it on our own. No screening or getting anyone open. We just threw it right to them.”
Alexa Ichord scored eight of her team-high 12 points in the second quarter for the Lady Tigers. Freshman Kylee Elmore hit three 3-pointers en route to 11 points off the bench in her first career varsity game.
Senior Haylee Kell had team highs of five assists and three steals. Elizabeth Hayes grabbed a team-best seven rebounds.
Williams hit five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points to lead Eminence. Coulter made three triples en route to 22 points.
The Lady Tigers played zone, box-and-one and man-to-man defenses to try to slow down Williams and Coulter. It worked for most of the first half. But the duo combined for 30 second-half points.
“A lot of credit goes to Eminence,” Kell said. “They’re quick and gave us some problems.”
Trailing 11-10 early in the first quarter, Houston rattled off 13 of the next 16 points to take a nine-point lead.
Ichord and Kenzie Scheets had consecutive baskets early in the spurt to make it 14-10. After a Williams triple, Ichord had a putback and layup and Hayes banked in a short jumper. Ichord followed with an offensive stickback to give the Lady Tigers a 22-13 advantage with 2:24 left in the half.
Eminence got a pair of 3-pointers from Williams, including one that beat the halftime buzzer, and another from Coulter to pull within a point at the half.
Kell said during the preseason his team would take the first available shot offensively. Against Eminence, the Lady Tigers were deliberate with the ball and unable to speed up the tempo.
“We said we’d shoot the basketball, but you have to get open to shoot the ball,” Kell said. “We didn’t move to get open. We have to do a better job of using our screens, reading the defense and cutting harder.”
After Williams’ fourth 3-pointer gave Eminence a 25-23 lead early in the third, Haylee Kell answered with a triple of her own. It was Houston’s last advantage of the night.
The game was tied following Elmore’s layin with about three minutes left in the third quarter before Eminence quickly pulled away.
“I’ve got to have kids that play hard all the time,” Kell said. “We’re not the quickest or tallest team in the state. We’ve got to do the little things right.”
EMINENCE (63) — Courtney Coulter 22. Merissa Turner 8. Katrina Nichols 5. Kelsey Williams 23. Jacy Lashly 1. Makayla Covley 4. FG 21. FT 12-22. F 17. (3-pointers: Williams 5, Coulter 3, Nichols. Fouled out: none).
HOUSTON (42) — Alexa Ichord 12. Alissa Bowlin 6. Kylee Elmore 11. Kenzie Scheets 2. Amber Sillyman 1. Haylee Kell 4. Sydney Cremer 2. Lizzie Hayes 4. FG 14. FT 9-19. F 18. (3-pointers: Elmore 3, Bowlin, Kell. Fouled out: none).