HILLSBORO — Ripping off his jacket, Ellison head coach Alberto Jones furiously whipped it at his seat on the bench.
The usually mellow Jones raged at his players, screaming and yelling out instructions. A former Eagles player himself, losing this one was not an option.
“That’s how I used to coach when I was younger, but now that I’ve gotten a little older, my body can’t take all that stuff anymore,” the 33-year-old Jones joked. “So I kinda went back to the old me.”
Channeling their coach’s energy from the sideline, the Eagles players responded, locking down on defense and holding sharpshooting Flower Mound to just 2-of-15 shooting in the second and third quarters before sealing the 61-52 area-round playoff win at the free-throw line Friday at Hillsboro High School.
“That’s coach Jones, that happens every game and now that it’s playoff time, you should expect that more,” said senior guard Ojai Black, who scored 13 points and had a pair of pivotal steals during the second and third quarters as Ellison outscored the Jaguars 28-14.
The Eagles play No. 4 South Grand Prairie, which beat Colleyville Heritage 64-43 also Friday, at a time and place to be determined. South Grand Prairie held off an upset bid by Harker Heights in the first round Tuesday.
Ellison junior post Ronnie Edwards had a double-double with 15 points — including shooting 5 of 6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter — and 10 rebounds, while Black scored eight of his 13 points in the final frame as the Eagles knocked down 13 of 16 tries from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter. Edwards, who was purposely fouled on several occasions, missed his first try from the line but went 5-for-5 from there.
“Those were big because the difference between winning and losing games is at the free-throw line,” Jones said. “It was big because if you don’t knock down those, it gives them a little more hope.”
But it was on defense that the Eagles (29-6) squashed Flower Mound’s spirits.
After watching the Jaguars — in their first season under former Killeen head coach Jason Fossett — light up the scoreboard with an 18-point first quarter, the Eagles (29-6) turned up the defensive intensity.
Trailing 18-10 entering the second, a Black steal-and-score layup at the 4:55 mark sparked Ellison on an 8-0 run to tie it at 18-18 with 36 seconds left on a putback by 6-foot-5 post Fred Jackson.
Unable to handle the Eagles’ pressure, Flower Mound (26-11) missed all eight of its second-quarter field goals and turned the ball over five times before Ryan Reibly sank a pair free throws with 26 seconds left in the half to lead 20-18 at the break.
“We just had to pick up the defensive intensity if we wanted to get back into the game,” Black said. “So we got a couple of steals, a couple of stops, the buckets we needed and we got back in the game.”
Ellison took its first lead of the game, 27-26, 3:18 into the third quarter when senior guard Malik Hawkins nailed the second of his three 3-pointers in between a pair of buckets by Edwards.
The Eagles never trailed again as Black fed James Jessie on a baseline layup with 32 seconds left and then nailed a pull-up jumper as time expired in the third quarter to give Ellison a 38-32 advantage entering the fourth.
Once in the fourth, Jackson followed a block of Flower Mound post Anthony Kruf with a putback on the opposite end and then Black struck on back-to-back possessions for a 45-40 lead with 4:58 left and then sealed the win at the line.
“This is big. There are a lot of seniors on this team and they’re not ready for it to be over yet — they want me to yell at them at practice a little bit more,” Jones said.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566