Ellison vs. Hays Boys Basketball

Ellison’s Marcus Jackson defends against Hays High School during a Dec. 3 game at Ellison. The defending District 8-5A champs open league play Tuesday at home against 11th-ranked Harker Heights.

There will be no wait for Killeen ISD. 

In fact, when District 8-5A play opens Tuesday, KISD fans will have to choose which game of the season they’ll be attending.

Or they can just wait until the next game of the season on Friday.

One year after Harker Heights and Shoemaker finished a game behind district champion Ellison, and Killeen missed the playoffs by one game, the four KISD schools will lock up against each other to open district play Tuesday.

Ellison will begin its district title defense at home against No. 11 Heights while Killeen will host Shoemaker, with both games tipping off at 7 p.m.

Shoemaker and Heights, which split the season series last year, will then square off Friday to complete the slate of high-profile matchups.

All of this before school even lets out for Christmas vacation.

“You can run but you can’t hide,” Heights coach Celneque Bobbitt said.

“And right now we’ve got to guard our grill and knuckle up because we’ve got two heavy hitters coming up.”

As far as the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches is concerned Heights is the heavy hitter in District 8-5A with a 9-1 record entering Saturday and a No. 11 ranking in the state.

But Bobbitt isn’t even ready to call the Knights one of the best teams in Killeen — not after Heights finished behind Ellison and Shoemaker last season.

The Knights do, however, have an opportunity to prove that in his eyes, opening league play against the team Bobbitt views as the preseason No. 1, so to speak.

“I hope not,” Bobbitt said when asked if his team had a target on its back. “I hope it’d be the district champion.”

That’d be Ellison, which embraces the target on its back after 19 straight playoff appearances.

But Eagles coach Alberto Jones said this year that target will be even bigger coming off the Eagles’ first district title since 2004.

“Especially for teams like Heights and Shoemaker because they both were one game behind us last year,” Jones added. “I know this year they both want to win district also, so we’ve got the title and they want to take it from us.”

With a significantly younger team, Jones said he wishes a game like Heights came later on in district play rather than two weeks into December.

After all, Heights and Ellison have barely played 20 games combined.

But Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said, and Bobbitt agreed, that you can throw everything out the window when it comes to rivalries like these, even this early in the season.

“I don’t know if it’s an advantage because we have all seen each other a billion times and we all know what each other does,” Huggins said.

“These kids have played together forever and all that preparation, you can throw it out the door,” Bobbitt added.

Huggins’ team is eager to return to the playoffs after finishing a game behind fourth-seeded Copperas Cove last year, and its first shot at redemption will come at home Tuesday.

And while the Roos don’t have a district title or a state ranking to their name, Shoemaker coach Emund Prichett said they can’t be taken lightly either.

“They’re very confident,” Prichett said of Killeen. “They didn’t get in the playoffs last year and I’m sure they’re trying to show people that’s a fluke.”

So, there will be no shortage of storylines when the four teams tip off at Ellison and Killeen on Tuesday.

And the coaches, all of whom competed for Killeen schools, can’t be happier to be a part of it.

After all, they normally are pulling for each other.

“Regardless of what happens,” Huggins said, “we want our four teams to be in (the playoffs) at the end of the day.”

But that will go out the window Tuesday.

“It’s so much fun,” Huggins said, “but at the end of the day, we’re still competing against each other.”

So, ready or not, the matchups that may define the District 8-5A season will come next week before the calendar changes to 2014.

And while more time to prepare never hurt anyone, the coaches are ready for the challenge.

“We’re excited about it — I’m excited for the kids,” Prichett said.

Contact Jordan Mason at jmason@kdhnews.com or 254-501-7562​

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