Excel girls fall short against Walker

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After falling behind 15 points in the first quarter, Excel tried to play catchup but it wasn’t enough as the Lady Eagles fell, 40-27, to Walker on Saturday in girls high school basketball.

Excel came into the game with a 9-8 record after picking up key wins in their previous two games, but Walker came ready to play.

After going scoreless in the first quarter, Excel picked up the tempo when Whitney Harris scored her team’s first points as she drove to the basket and was fouled, making one of her two free throws.

Harris was Excel’s leading scorer with 10 points and also had a rebound and a steal.

“That was the difference of the game in the first quarter,” said Excel head coach Eric Harris. “It’s 15-0 and we beat them by two points the rest of the game. The first quarter was definitely the reason that we lost today.”

After the Harris free-throw, Anna Lane Hattaway got a quick rebound on Walker’s next possession and whipped a pass to Lindsey Mauldin for an open jumper with 5:51 left in the second quarter to bring Excel within 15.

With 1:50 left in the first half, Brighton McCollum was fouled while grabbing a defensive rebound and with Walker in foul trouble, McCollum sank both free throws for the last points of the half and Excel trailed, 22-9.

“We had the homecoming event and several of our girls were on the court dressed up, and I don’t know if that was a factor, but we did not come out ready to play on both ends,” Harris said.

“Walker did a nice job,” he added. “They play a great man-to-man defense and they had help covering our scorers. Anytime one of our scorers had the ball and tried to drive, they doubled [the coverage].”

After halftime, Excel came out strong with Xena Enos stealing the ball twice on consecutive plays, but they could not convert the turnovers into points.

The first basket by Excel in the second half came from an open 3-pointer by Harris with 4:50 left in the third quarter.

“I tried to tell them that we have to win the third and fourth quarter,” Harris said. “The first half was over with and there’s nothing we could do about it and it’s gone, so let’s try to focus and if we can cut it to six or seven, we might have a shot.”

Going into the final quarter, Excel started to find some open lanes and easy buckets, scoring more points than in any other quarter.

McCollum received a pass at the top of the arc for one of two 3-pointers Excel scored in the final quarter, but found itself on the losing end as the final whistle blew.

“I told them in the locker room that this game’s over and we have to learn from it,” Harris said. “I don’t know if you win or lose a game in the first quarter, but it showed today that you could."

“We’re 9-9 and have a tough challenge, Tuesday, against Mount Paran, who I think is the best team on our side [of the region],” Harris said. “We will see how we respond, and we will be practicing Monday to try and get better.”

Tipoff is scheduled at 6 p.m. for the two teams, which will meet at Mount Paran.