Poteet’s Jaliyah Johns scored all eight of her points in the second half to help the Pirates rally for a 38-28 win over Kaufman on Friday.

Poteet did not get off to the ideal start on Friday night.

The Pirates endured some struggles against Kaufman’s defensive pressure and when they did have opportunities on the offensive end, they were unable to convert.

The script reversed as the game went on, though.

Poteet turned up its own defensive intensity and it helped them find their way on the other end of the court. That allowed the Pirates to rally from an early eight-point deficit to claim a 38-28 victory at Poteet High School.

Poteet improves to 5-2 in 13-5A, remaining one game behind Lancaster and North Forney in the loss column in the battle for the district championship.

The Pirates trailed for the entire first half and 13 turnovers were a big reason why. They were down by eight on two different occasions in the second quarter, but were able to keep Kaufman within sight.

Mid-game adjustments, however, made a big difference, as they had just six giveaways in the second half and their own defensive pressure forced 12 second-half turnovers by Kaufman to help fuel the comeback.

“Great defensive effort, we’ve just got to do a lot better job being disciplined on offense, making better passes, meeting passes,” Poteet head coach Jonathan McKinney said. “It always comes down to fundamentals and being disciplined and we were not the most disciplined team tonight, but we played with great effort, great passion, and a lot of times when you play with great effort like that it covers up some of your mistakes.”

Post Jaliyah Johns was whistled for a technical foul early in the first quarter and McKinney elected to have her sit out the remainder of the half.

The senior responded when she got back on the court.

Johns scored all eight of her points in the second half, giving the Pirates the lead for good with an inside bucket late in the third quarter and the scoring the first four points of the fourth to put Poteet in control.

“She made several good plays defensively and it turned into good offense,” McKinney said. “That’s one of the things I always tell the girls is if you make good defensive plays, it going to help the offense.”

This is a different Pirate team than the one that rolled to an undefeated district championship a year ago, namely with the graduation of 13-5A most valuable player Tahjanay Perry and offensive player of the year Amaya Briggs.

That pair accounted for 34 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and eight steals per game last season.

Their loss has allowed others to step into larger roles, though.

Senior Daija Espinoza kept Poteet in it early with a pair of 3-pointers as part of an eight-point first quarter that kept them within 11-8.

Senior Yaya Rolla-Padilla hit a big trey in the second and junior Jessy Kuruvilla tallied seven points to help them close to within 22-20 at the half.

With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, senior Heaven Worthy hit a pair of clutch baskets and Rolla-Padilla knocked down a pair of free throws to put the finishing touches on the comeback.

“It’s been different, it’s a different type of offense when you have two dynamic guards like that,” McKinney said. “But some of our guards this year have really stepped up and taken on a new role, they’ve done a good job of being senior leaders and I’m proud of every girl I have on this team.”

Poteet is sitting in a good position to return to the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years and they could secure that berth as early as Tuesday.

They are also still in position to defend their 13-5A crown and could take a major step toward doing so on Tuesday when they meet district co-leader North Forney.

If they are going to make that push to the top, though, McKinney believes they cannot have a repeat of the early stages of Friday night.

“At times, we’re not starting out well,” he said. “The last five district games we’ve started off really, really slow and creating a deficit and we can’t do that against any team. It’s things I’ve got to fix and hopefully we’ll be better next time out.”

For continued coverage on the local sports scene, follow Devin Hasson on Twitter: @DevinHasson

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