Things are looking up at Ellison these days — at least on the hardcourt.
While the rest of the athletic program is waiting to see who will fill the hole left by the resignation of head football coach Buddy McBryde, the Eagles and Lady Eagles basketball teams are continuing to do what they do best — win.
And thanks to a special couple of sharpshooters, they’re doing just that from the top of the District 8-5A standings and are setting themselves up for a run at a championship.
The Eagles (22-3, 3-0 8-5A) are riding high on the heels of the lights-out shooting of senior Malik Hawkins, whose deadly aim from deep sparked Ellison to an 83-75 win over visiting Copperas Cove on Friday.
The same was true at Copperas Cove, where the No. 11 Lady Eagles’ Deja Pointer fought through an emotion-stirring day and drained four 3-pointers — including two in the opening quarter — to knock off the previously district-leading Lady Bulldawgs 72-58 Friday.
“She was determined,” Lady Eagles head coach Sherry McKinnon said.
Pointer’s four first-half 3s came at the perfect time to swing momentum, the first tying the score at 7 midway through the first quarter, and the third in the midst of an 8-0 second-quarter run that gave Ellison (22-3, 4-1 8-5A) its first 10-point lead.
Hawkins hit four of his six 3-pointers in the opening four minutes and propelled Ellison to leads of 10-2 and 18-11 before the Bulldawgs knew what hit them.
“Malik is locked in right now,” Eagles head coach Alberto Jones said.
In the last three games, Hawkins has hit an average of six 3s per game, including a career-high eight in a 85-72 win over San Marcos en route to leading Ellison to the Austin Akins tournament title.
It’s because of their ability to shoot from all over the floor that both the Eagles and Lady Eagles believe this could be their year.
“This puts us back on track to where we want to go, and of course, our goal is to win the district championship, so we had to win this game,” McKinnon said.
Lack of help for Goff dooms Lady Dawgs
Shawnte’ Goff is good, but she cannot win games by herself.
Copperas Cove’s standout guard doubled her season scoring average en route to a double-double Friday, but it was not enough to continue the Lady Bulldawgs’ undefeated run through district, and they lost to No. 11 Ellison 72-58.
Nobody can say Goff failed to deliver, though.
Goff finished with a season-high 30 points on 8-of-18 shooting, including a perfect showing from the free-throw line and behind the 3-point arc. The senior made all 12 of her free throws and connected on a pair of 3-pointers to go along with 10 rebounds, a team-high four assists, a block and a steal.
Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldawgs, having one player account for over half their offense turned out to be a bad thing.
While Goff made 44 percent of her shots, the rest of the team combined to miss 30 of 40 field-goal attempts, and outside of guard Jasmin Johnson (12 points) and post Bryaunea Hall (eight), no player scored more than two.
Making matters worse, Goff received little help after halftime, scoring 19 of the Lady Bulldawgs’ final 31 points. Hall, who was held scoreless in the first half, added all eight of her points during the third and fourth quarters, but it was not enough to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit.
The defeat dropped Copperas Cove (17-7, 4-1 District 8-5A) into a two-way tie with the Lady Eagles (22-3, 4-1) for second place in the district standings heading into Tuesday’s road game against No. 15 Temple (20-5, 5-0).
In order to avoid a fourth consecutive loss since opening district play with four straight double-digit road victories, the Lady Bulldawgs cannot afford to have limited offensive options against the Tem-Cats, who beat Harker Heights 62-40 on Friday to claim sole possession of first place in the district.
Tigers now a target
Belton is the upstart in District 8-5A, winning its first two games, putting the rest of the teams on notice.
The Tigers finished last in 12-5A last season, despite having the district’s leading scorer (Daniel Mills).
Friday, Belton got its first taste of having a target on its back, falling down early to Killeen and then struggling to make a comeback and ultimately losing to the Roos by 12.
A couple of turnovers helped lead to baskets and, while Killeen was still scoring, the Tigers had signs of life, trailing just 51-36 at the end of the third quarter. Two free throws by Haggins, followed by a Mills’ steal, which he converted into a three-point play by going coast-to-coast and drawing the foul, and the Tigers only trailed by 10.
“Once we went and shared with them ‘this is what we are doing and this is what we must do,’ they came out and put together some runs that made a difference,” Belton coach Charlie Lewis said of the second-half surge.
Still, the double-digit lead was tough to overcome. The biggest issue stopping the comeback was that the Tigers were hurried and missing shots.
“It helps (to have that large lead) but it’s scary, too,” Killeen coach Reggie Huggins said. “Because your kids don’t always understand you get up by a lot doesn’t mean you stop. You have to push (the opponent) out more, and put doubt in their mind.”
Nick Talbot and FME News Service contributed to this report.