When Malik Hawkins is sinking daggers from deep, even Eagles teammate Ojai Black feels it.
“To be honest, I feel sorry for the opposing team,” Black said. “Because it kind of hurts seeing him on that streak, in rhythm, just hitting shots with hands in his face — no matter how close. Him hitting shots like that is real tough on defenses.”
That’s why the Ellison team captain made it a point to get Hawkins the ball early.
Coming off a baseline screen 35 seconds into the game, Black fed a hungry Hawkins on the right corner as the senior sharpshooter leaned back and drained the first of his seven 3-pointers — five coming in a 33-15 first quarter — and the host Eagles rolled over Waco Midway 86-75 on Tuesday.
“I know it’s bottoms — my first instinct when I get him the ball is my job is done,” Black said. “Because he’s going to finish the rest, and it’s going to go in.”
It’s that confidence that has Ellison (21-4, 6-0 8-5A) riding high atop the District 8-5A standings with just one game left in the first half of the district schedule.
“I thought they came out with energy and focused, which I was pleased with because that tells me they’re locked in,” Ellison coach Alberto Jones said. “(But) a lot can change in eight games, so we’ve got to keep the pedal down and keep playing how we’ve been playing.”
Nailing his seven 3-pointers, Hawkins broke out of a two-game funk for 25 first-half points with four different players reaching double figures as the Eagles piled on the overmatched Panthers (11-13, 1-5) for a 55-33 lead at halftime. Black added 15 points on 7 of 12 shooting and Thomas Larry and Ronnie Edwards each contributed 11 points.
After struggling shooting against Shoemaker last Friday, Ellison found its offense clicking on all cylinders early, hitting 13 of 17 from the field in the first quarter and 37 of 73 (50.7 percent) for the game.
And it all started with Hawkins, who shot 5 of 7 from behind the arc in the first quarter and finished 7-of-17 from 3-point range for the game.
“I called a couple of plays and Ojai called different plays to get Malik the ball, so they were all in it trying to get him the ball,” Jones said.
After jumping ahead 12-2 in the first 2½ minutes of the game, Hawkins nailed four 3s over the next 3½ minutes as Ellison exploded for a 27-10 advantage with 2:07 left in the opening quarter.
“The last two games he’s been in kind of a slump, he hasn’t been getting the shots he wanted because they’ve been guarding him close,” Black said. “And this game we put it in our head we were going to come out and get Malik going early, get him a couple of shots so he can catch a rhythm, and he did catch rhythm.”
Ellison led by 28, 73-45, after a putback by Larry with 2:27 left in the third quarter and then pulled ahead for a game-high 31 with an 81-50 advantage 1:04 into the fourth quarter after reserve Phil Kee scored on back-to-back possessions and Knigel Key hit a fast-break bucket with 6:56 to play.